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Tuesday, 19 March, 2002, 17:13 GMT
Cross-channel underwear war
YSL/MS logos
What's in a name? YSL hopes to block M&S lingerie
The French fashion house Yves Saint Laurent has objected to the latest lingerie plans of the UK retail giant Marks & Spencer.

Yves Saint Laurent is unhappy about an attempt by M&S to register the name MSL - short for Marks & Spencer Lingerie - as a trademark, arguing that the name could be confused with its own acronym YSL.

Under European trademark registration rules, YSL has until 21 June to make its full case against M&S' application, giving the British retailer until 21 August to reply.

The dispute is unlikely to be resolved until the end of the year at the earliest.

M&S not for turning

M&S on Tuesday said it is undeterred by Yves Saint Laurent's objection.

"MSL is a brand that we would like to build," a spokesman told BBC News Online.

"We are going to proceed with the application on the basis that we don't believe there will be any confusion."

M&S, which used the MSL name on a trial basis in France and Germany before closing its European stores last year, hopes to launch a new range of women's underwear under the MSL brand.

The British retailer, which reversed a lengthy sales decline late last year, owes its recovery in part to the introduction of trendy new clothing designs.

The store's critically acclaimed new fashions have helped to dispel the high street giant's former reputation for dowdy, out-of-date clothes.

And M&S is a force to be reckoned with in the underwear industry, controlling an estimated one third of the UK market.

Luxury losses

Yves Saint Laurent's aggressive defence of its logo reflects the hefty revenues that it generates from sales of perfume and other products bearing the YSL tag.

Yves Saint Laurent's parent, the luxury goods group Gucci, has been hit by the global economic downturn and the post-11 September tourism slump.

Analysts said earlier this week that they expect the group's 2001/02 profits to fall by a fifth compared to the year before.

YSL itself is forecast to rack up losses of about $65m (46m) in 2001.

See also:

07 Jan 02 | Business
M&S kickstarts 2002 with new range
18 Dec 01 | Business
Gucci profits halve after US attacks
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