A global war between two corporate crocodiles is again being waged in New Zealand, with fashion companies fighting today over the right to use a famous reptilian logo on clothing here.

Lacoste and Crocodile International are tussling over the trade mark in the High Court at Wellington today.

Julian Miles QC, lawyer for French fashion giant Lacoste, said the company had a "raft of registered marks" and "a swag of trademarks since the 1970s" in New Zealand.

The two companies have battled for decades here and abroad, with occasional truces.


"In New Zealand, the crocodile belongs to Lacoste," Mr Miles said.

"Crocodile International is never going to be able to register a crocodile mark in New Zealand because it would inevitably be found...to be misleading."

Mr Miles said Crocodile was not even currently trading in New Zealand so Lacoste was not blocking its rival "from doing anything it wouldn't otherwise be able to do."

The court also heard arguments today about the placement and "pose" of the crocodile and discussed the colourful history of both companies over the decades.

Eleven years ago, the enemies reached a deal in which a trademark first registered in 1961 to Crocodile was assigned to Lacoste.

But in 2008, Crocodile said Lacoste had not genuinely used that trademark and wanted it revoked.

The assistant commissioner of trademarks agreed with Crocodile - but last October Justice David Collins then overturned the assistant commissioner's decision.

Justice Denis Clifford today commented on the "delightful" history and complexity of the corporate battle.


"Perhaps we should talk to the list judge as to whether there should be a Crocodile Judge. It's good enough for leaky buildings," Justice Clifford said.

Crocodile International's lawyer Greg Arthur is expected to argue his client's case later today.

Outside court, Mr Miles said the purpose of today's hearing was to overturn the assistant commissioner's decision that Lacoste could not register the trade mark.

Before lunch, Mr Arthur briefly addressed the court. He told the court Crocodile, perhaps unsurprisingly, wanted to adopt the assistant commissioner's findings.

He said there was no suggestion Lacoste had copied a crocodilian design from venerated Crocodile founder Dr Tan Hian-Tsin.

The court heard debates around the originality of what Mr Arthur called the "combination crocodile" mark, which included the reptile and the Crocodile company name in cursive script.

Justice Clifford sought to clarify some detailed discussions around crocodilian logos.
"Lacoste has a mark which is just a single crocodile facing the other way, without any words. It features regularly on shirts. Does that infringe Dr Tan's copyright?"

Mr Arthur said it did not.

Mr Arthur said the forerunner of the current Crocodile International logo was used in East Asia as long ago as the 1940s.

The crocodile battle was also the subject of a separate Court of Appeal case, expected to be heard later this year.

The High Court case will resume at 2.15pm and was expected to conclude today.