Lacoste Loses Trademark Action Against Crocodile International

May 2004


Lacoste has lost its trademark suit against rival Crocodile International over the use of the crocodile logo in China. 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. Lacoste, a French based 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 ongoing for over four decades. The logos only differ materially in the direction they face – one to the left and one to the right. The crocodile design is slightly different. 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 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. These issues have become a common problem since economies such as China and Russia have opened up their markets and brands have moved in. International firms have been embroiled in a raft of copyright disputes in developing economies. Lacoste have also sued Crocodile International and its partners, Shanghai Oriental Cartelo Apparel and Beijing Hualian Department Store Shareholding for trademark infringement in Beijing. The case has yet to be heard.
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