Monday, April 24, 2006

Trademarks: Asian Crocodile Wars Still Not Over

The Economist reviewed 'China Shakes the World: The Rise of a Hungry Nation,' by James Kynge on the ocassion of Chinese president Hu in America. Here is a fragment:

"At Yiwu (city in Zhejiang province, IP Dragon), the world's largest whole-sale market, prices are a tenth of what they would be in the cheapest discount store in the West. One reason is blatant piracy. Mr Kynge spots four shops in a row sporting names like "Crocodile of the Yangtze" and "Croc Croc", each one selling fake Lacoste goods. One shop assistant claims that "the French and the Chinese crocodile are the same brand. They have merged." Read the full Economist review here.

Hong Kong
The shop assistant's wish may be the father of the thought. However, there has been crocodile war in Hong Kong, between Crocodile Garments Ltd. and La Chemise Lacoste over trademark infringement. For a long time you could see two big bill boards hanging side by side, one with a crocodile looking to the right next to a similar crocodile looking to the left. The period that the two mirror crocodiles could eye each other has ended March 31st, 2006. Crocodile Garments Ltd. (the crocodile looking to the left) has changed its trademark considerably. Read the People's Daily about the settlement (Thursday, October 23, 2003) between La Chemise Lacoste and Crocodile Garments Ltd. here. Andrew Brown wrote for CNN an article which includes the old and new trademarks of Crocodile Garments Ltd., see here.

Yin Pin of China Daily wrote: "Lacoste has reached an agreement (17 november 2005, IP Dragon) with Zhejiang Crocodile Garment Co Ltd, which is based in East China's Zheijiang Province, that recognizes the European manufacturer's exclusive rights to the crocodilian trademark in China. The Chinese company will stop using its similar logo within three years (17 november 2008, IP Dragon)." The deal requires Zhejiang Crocodile to seek approval from Lacoste before deciding on a new brand. Read more here.

"A third dispute with Singapore-based Crocodile International Private Ltd is now the only unresolved issue. The companies have been in court for over five years.
In March 2004 a Shanghai court ordered Lacoste to stop infringing on the Singaporean company's logo, which the French manufacturer rejected. It shifted its focus to distributors, and filed a lawsuit against two department stores that were selling the Singaporean company's products in Central China's Hunan Province. It won both cases." Read Yin Ping's article here.

The similarity between the trademarks of Hong Kong's Crocodile Garments, Zhejiang Crocodile and Singapore's Crocodile International is remarkable.
Singapore's Crocodile International, the alleged infringer (in the case against Lacoste) had also to enforce its trademark in Bangladesh, China, Malaysia, India and Taiwan, see here.

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