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De La Fressange Court Decision

PARIS — The house of Ines de la Fressange said an appeals court here has given it back the rights to the brand of its namesake founder.<BR><BR>The ruling overturns a verdict last September reinstating to de la Fressange, a former Chanel model and...

PARIS — The house of Ines de la Fressange said an appeals court here has given it back the rights to the brand of its namesake founder.

The ruling overturns a verdict last September reinstating to de la Fressange, a former Chanel model and designer, the rights to her name, the house said.

“The appeals court has rejected Madame Ines de la Fressange’s demand to nullify the agreement by which she sold the brand carrying her name,” the company said in a statement.

But de la Fressange’s legal counsel, the Paris law firm of Kiejman & Marembert, touted the ruling, too. It contended it gives de la Fressange control of her name in “domains such as clothing, accessories and fragrance.”

It added that de la Fressange had “redeposited [the rights for] the brands of which she is again the owner.” 

François Louis Vuitton, who owns a 49 percent majority of the house, said the categories the court had given de la Fressange were “inconsequential” and “no longer made” by the house. 

“The company has the right to continue using the name,” he said.

Still, Vuitton added the firm would seek a ruling in France’s highest court to end de la Fressange’s right to those products.

The wrangling is the latest twist in a case that began in 1999. That was when Vuitton and the house’s other major shareholders fired de la Fressange, who is now director at the Roger Vivier shoe firm, over claims that she had damaged the house’s image by designing a pillbox.

De la Fressange then filed an unfair dismissal suit. In 2002, a Paris court gave her $220,000 in damages.

But de la Fressange also sought to regain control of her name. She said she found it unpalatable to be associated with “inferior” products that the house had created since her departure.

Vuitton said the house, which has about 20 licensing agreements, had sales of between 1 million and 5 million euros, or $1.4 million to $6.7 million at current exchange, last year.

This story first appeared in the January 11, 2005 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

De la Fressange retains a minority 8 percent stake in the house.