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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 19:50 GMT
Thorny issue over rugby's rose
Frank Cotton
Mr Cotton said the rose did not belong to the RFU
The Rugby Football Union (RFU) and its strip supplier Nike face an estimated 500,000 bill for legal costs after failing to ban the use of the English red rose emblem by another company.

A High Court judge has rejected action brought by the RFU and Nike against Cotton Traders, whose managing director Fran Cotton is a former England captain.

Mr Cotton also sits on the RFU's management board and is a director of England Rugby Ltd, which runs the professional game.

RFU chief executive Francis Baron said: "We are obviously disappointed and not a little surprised at the judgment."

Rights sold

Mr Justice Lloyd ruled that the classic English rugby rose was associated in the minds of the public with England as a country or its national team, and was not understood to indicate the RFU or the trade origin of the goods on which it featured.

He upheld Cotton Traders' counterclaim that the RFU's European registration of the classic rose emblem as a trade mark was invalid because it was not distinctive of the RFU.

The judge ordered the RFU and Nike to pay the costs of the case, but granted them leave to appeal.

This would apply to the three lions, the thistle of Scotland, the feathers of Wales and the shamrock of Ireland

William Lister
Cotton Trader's solicitor

The court had heard that Cotton Traders was the RFU's official kit supplier for six years until 1997, when its exclusive rights were bought out by Nike for 2m.

Nike introduced a new stylised rose design, which has been used on official kit ever since.

But Cotton Traders went back to selling the classic white English rugby jersey - complete with the rose emblem on the chest.

William Lister, an intellectual property rights solicitor who acted for Cotton Traders, said: "This is a landmark decision with repercussions right across the sport and leisure market.

"It prevents any organisation gaining exclusive rights in any generic badge associated with England, or for that matter, any other national emblem.

"This would apply to the three lions, the thistle of Scotland, the feathers of Wales and the shamrock of Ireland."

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