Harrods Loses a Legal Struggle
LONDON (AP) _ Luxury merchant Harrods lost a legal fight today to stop its name from being marketed in South America by a rundown store that has no ties to the London landmark.
Owners of the Buenos Aires Harrods can keep using the Harrods name, but can be sued if they imply it has any connection to its famous namesake, according to the House of Lords, Britain’s highest court of appeals.
Fearing the Buenos Aires Harrods might use the victory to sell the name to other merchants in South America, the British Harrods plans numerous actions before trademark registries all over the region to try to protect the name.
``We are quite concerned somebody out there will believe Harrods Buenos Aires Ltd. has some connection with Harrods,″ Harrods spokesman Peter Willasey said late Tuesday.
Harrods executives describe the once-fancy store in Buenos Aires as a shadow of its former self, trading merchandise on just one or two floors that more resemble a market than a luxury merchant.
``The edifice that used to be Harrods Buenos Aires has fallen into a great state of disrepair,″ Willasey said. ``It’s a shambles, really.″
Lawyers for the Buenos Aires Harrods did not immediately return a reporter’s phone call.
The saga dates to 1913, when London businessmen raised cash on the Stock Exchange to open a new venture called Harrods Buenos Aires Ltd. At the time, Argentina’s capital city ranked with London and New York in terms of wealth and prestige.
The two Harrods stores initially had the same boards of directors, but soon started drifting apart and by 1947 were almost completely separate, said Larry Cohen, a lawyer for London Harrods.
Harrods sold out its tiny stake in the Buenos Aires store in the 1960s.
After Egyptian entrepreneur Mohamad Al Fayed bought Harrods in 1984, he was eventually approached by representatives of the Buenos Aires store, who suggested Al Fayed might want to buy it for as much as $60 million to $120 million, Cohen said.
That seemed far more than the store was worth, but Al Fayed was apparently willing to buy the brand name for a much cheaper price.
Al Fayed would have paid between 2 million pounds ($3.3 million) and 5 million pounds ($8.25 million), according to a source familiar with the situation who requested anonymity.
Willasey said Harrods will now press its fight before trademark regulators in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uraguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico.