US state battles with French fashion designer

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Who owns the name Montana? The American state says nobody, despite the claims of the French designer Claude Montana who has registered exclusive rights to the word for certain products.

Marc Racicot, the Governor of Montana, has asked the US Commerce Department for a ruling that no one can restrict use of a generic word that refers to a geographic location. In a letter to Bruce Lehman, commissioner of patents and trademarks, the governor said he is concerned that the exclusivity claim of Claude Montana (pictured) could affect hundreds of Montana businesses that use the state name to identify themselves or their products.

"I am seriously concerned about this situation and, on behalf of the Montana businesses and citizens who call Montana home, challenge the right of any individual or business to claim exclusivity of the name `Montana' for any product or service," he wrote in the letter, released on Wednesday.

The issue arose when Tom and Ann Dooling of Dillon, Montana, tried to register a trademark for the name of their clothing business "Montana Knits." A New York law firm representing Claude Montana objected, saying the designer had sole right to use the name on a variety of goods from cologne and shoes to gowns and jeans.

If federal officials rule against it, the state may go to law.