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Asos faces legal challenges as it expands overseas

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Fashion retailer Asos appears beset by legal challenges as it focuses on international expansion.

Last week the retailer revealed that for the first time more than half its sales were overseas. Its biggest international market, it said, was Europe.

But this week news has emerged of legal action brought on intellectual property grounds in two European countries.

The online trader is due in court in Hamburg on May 3 for a ruling on whether consumers could confuse its products with those of Anson’s Herrenhaus, a leading German menswear retailer that has a website but does not sell online but through 21 shops in 17 German cities.

Ansons’s contends that in German the two names are not only written similarly but also have a similar pronunciation. If it is successful, it is understood Asos could be forced to operate under a different name in Germany. A decision is expected in the summer.

According to a source, Anson’s has already been granted two preliminary injunctions in this case. In March 2010 it was granted an injunction to prevent Asos’ German language pop-up banner on its UK website informing customers that Asos ships to Germany, while in October Anson’s won an injunction to prevent use of pre-marketing website Asos.de.

A spokesperson for Anson’s said: “Anson’s welcomes healthy competition in the market but not to the extent it may confuse customers and dilute our valuable and longstanding brand.”

Germany, the UK’s largest trading partner, is a key export market for any UK retailer selling overseas.

And it is also reported today that it has been ordered to stop selling some products under the Asos name in Switzerland following a case brought by Swiss cycling clothes merchant Assos.

Asos did not respond to our request for a comment this morning but is reported to have said that there was no evidence of confusion between the two, and that Anson’s was being “opportunistic”.

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