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Princess Diana's dressmaker loses fight over name

Written by: Staff

BRUSSELS, Mar 30 (Reuters) Princess Diana's wedding dressmaker, Elizabeth Emanuel, has no right to regain her own name as a trademark, Europe's highest court today ruled.

Emanuel shot to fame with the intense publicity of the late princess's wedding to Britain's Prince Charles in 1981 and has designed clothes for actresses such as Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Collins.

But when she was on the brink of bankruptcy, Emanuel sold her company and her trademark in 1997, the year Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris.

In 1999, she launched a fight to get her name back after the company that bought her trademark started selling clothes under her signature. Media reports quoted her as saying she was heartbroken that people thought she had designed the garments.

The case went all the way to the European Court of Justice, the EU's highest court in Luxembourg.

Emanuel's lawyers argued that consumers were being deceived by the trademark since they were under the impression that she was the designer.

But today, the court said there was no deceit and she had no right to her name as a trademark.

''The name Elizabeth Emanuel cannot be regarded in itself as being of such a nature as to deceive the public as to the nature, quality or geographical origin of the product it designates,'' the court said in its ruling.

Even if the average consumer might be influenced by imagining Emanuel designed the garment, what matters is that the characteristics and the qualities of the clothes are guaranteed by the company which owns the trademark, the court said.

The ruling left it up to an English court to determine whether the new owner of the trademark intended to make consumers believe Emanuel is still the designer of the goods.

''In that case, there would be conduct which might be held to be fraudulent,'' the European judges said, adding that even that would not affect the registration or ownership of the trademark.

Emanuel assigned her business, goodwill and the registered trademark in 1997 to Frostprint Ltd, which changed its name to Elizabeth Emanuel International Ltd ('EE International'). EE International then assigned the registered trade mark to another company, Oakridge Trading Ltd ('Oakridge').

Reuters SB BD1728

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