Lacoste snaps up Crocodile device mark infringement damages


A court in Beijing has ordered three Chinese companies to pay a total of Rmb760,000 to French clothing manufacturer Lacoste for infringing its Crocodile device mark.

Lacoste's crocodile device was listed by China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce as a trademark deserving special protection in 1999 and 2000, and has been recognized in China as a well-known trademark since September 2005 in respect of clothing and other items in Class 25 of the Nice Classification.

Guangzhou Taie Dress Co Ltd (GTD) was fined Rmb500,000 and ordered to stop producing and selling clothes with a crocodile logo. This company had registered a GOLDEN CROCODILE trademark consisting of a crocodile image, waves and two Chinese characters; however, it highlighted or used only the crocodile element of the mark on the infringing articles, causing it to appear nearly identical to Lacoste's logo. Beijing-based Nianniangao Garments Co Ltd and Beijing Urban-Rural Trade Center Co Ltd, which presumably had reason to know that GTD's goods marketed by them were infringing, were fined Rmb200,000 and Rmb60,000 respectively for failing to confirm the legality of the trademarks on products they sold. The status of Lacoste's crocodile device as a well-known mark would have made it difficult for the defendants to plead ignorance of the infringement. It is not known whether these three companies faced criminal prosecution in addition to Lacoste's civil suit.

This case is part of a recent trend towards strengthening trademark enforcement in China, which will be welcomed by international trademark owners.

Ai-Leen Lim, Colin Ng & Partners, Hong Kong

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