New M&S brand 'a bid to cash in' on YSL trademark

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Attempts to register a new brand name by Marks & Spencer have been opposed by Yves Saint Laurent which claims the British chain is trying to cash in on its own prized image.

The French fashion house says the initials MSL too closely resemble the brand YSL which it adopted as a logo for its fashion and perfumes.

After a complaint from YSL the case has been referred to the Register of Community Trademarks, which oversees trademarks through the European Union. It is expected to announce its decision by the beginning of 2003.

Marks & Spencer originally used the initials MSL – standing for Marks & Spencer Lingerie – for two boutiques in Paris.

The shops shut when the British chain closed its stores in mainland Europe last spring. A spokesman for M&S said they applied to register the name although there are no present plans to use it.

They applied to the Register of Community Trademarks and, according to an M&S spokesman, sought advice from legal experts in European countries before using the name to begin with.

"We are not in the business of confusing customers and we sought advice on what we could do," the spokesman said. "We were told there were already a number of retailers who had SL in their name."

He said it was only in November or December of last year, when the Register for Community Trademarks asked for consultation, that Yves Saint Laurent finally responded with a "note of opposition."

"They are the only people to object and we are going through the normal process," the M&S spokesman said. YSL has until 21 June to make its case formally and M&S must reply by 21 August, the spokesman added.

The UK arm of Yves Saint Laurent was unable to comment when contacted about the matter.