Crocodile chews up Lacoste in logo infringement win

China

The Intellectual Property Chamber of the Shanghai Intermediate Court is reported to have ruled that French clothing firm Lacoste infringed Singapore company Crocodile International Pte Ltd's copyright in its crocodile logo.

The owner of Crocodile International created a crocodile logo, which he registered as a trademark in Singapore in 1951 and a copyright in China in 1980. Lacoste registered its now well known crocodile logo in France in 1933 and in China in 1980 in relation to clothing. It appears that it then applied to register a logo in China as a defensive trademark registration in connection with cosmetics. Crocodile International opposed the application and claimed that the logo, as it appeared in the Trademark Gazette, would infringe its copyright if it were approved for registration.

The court found for Crocodile International. As full reports of the decision have not been circulated, the details of the arguments are not clear. However, some reports allege that when Lacoste applied for its defensive registration it attempted to register Crocodile International's design as its own. This seems strange as it could instead have argued that its logo is a well-known mark worldwide and accordingly is entitled to protection pursuant to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights and China's national trademark law. The decision appears to be based on copyright law, not on trademark law.

Lacoste has separately sued Crocodile International in Beijing for trademark infringement, so the trademark fight between the two crocodiles is far from over.

David C Buxbaum, Anderson & Anderson, LLP, Hong Kong

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