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Court case may affect France Telecom's strategy

Published on .

France Telecom may be forced to change its corporate branding strategy in the wake of an early February court decision barring it from using three advertising slogans designed by roster agency TBWA Worldwide in France.

A Paris court accepted arguments posed by a French Internet firm, LaVie.com, or "Life.com", that France Telecom's advertising has caused confusion with its own activities and done irreparable harm to its image.

The Web agency claims France Telecom has usurped its name, pronounced "La Vie Point Com", in the slogans and marketing materials designed by TBWA in 1999, and used extensively in corporate advertising since early 2000.

The slogans -- "La Vie.com," (Life.com), "Bienvenue dans la vie.com," (Welcome to Life.com), and "France Telecom, Bienvenue dans la vie.com," (France Telecom, Welcome to Life.com) -- were said to constitute a violation of intellectual property rights held by the little-known Inter-net company.

The court annulled trademark protection France Telecom took out on the slogans and ordered the former state-owned monopoly to cease all advertising use -- in logos, printed ads or spoken promotions -- within six months, under threat of a $1,415 fine per infraction.

France Telecom and TBWA were ordered to pay damages, publication and court costs totaling $55,000.

A France Telecom spokesman says the company has yet to decide whether to appeal the ruling, which calls into question a two-year communications strategy programmed for more than $60 million in media buying.

In the interim, the company is still using the logo and slogans in its national advertising.

Copyright February 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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