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Last Updated: Friday, 26 March, 2004, 10:44 GMT
Lacoste loses its shirt in China
Crocodile logos
Lacoste has lost its trademark suit against rival Crocodile International over the famous crocodile logo.

Snapping its jaws on the fashionable polo shirt attire, the emblem became symbolic of the Lacoste brand.

But Singapore-based Crocodile International claimed it was first to dream up the design, registering the emblem in 1951.

The French company was ordered to stop using the logo and to pay one dollar in compensation.

The Shanghai court started the hearings last December.

The dispute had been bubbling under the surface of complex international copyright law for over four decades.

Subtle difference in design

The logos only differ materially in the direction they face.

Lacoste says tennis legend Rene Lacoste registered the logo in France in 1933; then in China in 1980.

But Singapore businessman Tan Hiantsin says his logo was designed in 1947 with the English word "crocodile" and registered it in Singapore in 1951. He disputed Lacoste's claim to have registered Chinese rights before the late 1990s.

The case centred on Lacoste's moves to register the trademark under its brands of cosmetics products in 1995.

A key point in the argument was Mr Tan's nationality.

He's a Chinese-born Malaysian and he claimed that Malaysia's adherence to international copyright conventions gives his design blanket protection in China from 1990.

More cases likely

Such issues have become a common problem since economies such as China and Russia have opened up their markets.

International firms have been embroiled in a raft of copyright disputes in developing economies.

Lacoste also sued Crocodile International and its partners, Shanghai Oriental Cartelo Apparel and Beijing Hualian Department Store Shareholding for trademark infringement in Beijing. The case is yet to be heard.

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