Home » General Interest » Cycling, le Tour Cycliste Féminin and a case of trade mark infringement

Cycling, le Tour Cycliste Féminin and a case of trade mark infringement

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cycleOn the 21st July 2013, Chris Froome became the second British person ever to win the Tour de France. It was a great day for Britain and for British cycling. The Tour has always been considered as the pinnacle of any professional road cyclist, anyone who wins the tour will have their name etched in cycling history forever, look at Lance Armstrong, he made his mark in cycling did he not?

However, how many people have heard of Nicole Cooke, first Brit and two time winner of the Tour de France … Féminin! You would have thought that that the Tour de France Féminin, would also be the highlight of the year for all female cyclists. Sadly due to the lack of public interest in women cycling, sponsorship each year for the tour was very hard to come by. For many years, stages were held inside cities because they would contribute money towards the tour; this in turn led to long transfers from one stage to the next.

To make matters worse, in 1997 the Tour Cycliste Féminin also known as the Women’s Tour de France was sued by the organisers of the Men’s Tour de France for trade mark infringement. The organisers argued that as the name of the Women’s tour was too similar to the original, this created public confusion, and the women’s tour was taking an unfair advantage of the reputation of the male equivalent. So in 1998, the Tour Cycliste Féminin was renamed as the Grande Boucle, the great loop (or the great curl depending on how we want to translate it).

In 2004, the Grande Boucle was cancelled due to organisational difficulties, and from then on, the tour only became shorter as the funds depleted, previous tours had been 10-15 stages, in 2008 the race was six days long with seven stages. The 2009 Grande Boucle became the last Grande Boucle ever held, with only 66 riders, Emma Pooley (Brit), winner of the 2009 Boucle, joked that the race was “more of a Petite Boucle than Grande” and thus the great loop of France was over.

So what did this teach us? The Tour de France specifically Lance Armstrong taught us not to cheat to reach your goal, the Tour Cycliste Féminin taught us not to trade off the back of famous marks.

We note, however, that “La Grande Boucle” is registered in France in a wide range of classes in the name of Société du Tour de France (Reg. Nos. 95 577339 and N 1656437), the organisers of the men’s tour. The plot thickens.

[Editor’s note: it is interesting to note that the idea of a women’s race at the Tour has recently been raised by both Emma Pouley and Harriet Harmon and the Tour organisers have said they are open to the idea. With the recent successes in cycling at London 2012 and the fact that the 2014 Tour de France will start in Yorkshire and include a Cambridge to London stage, maybe, hopefully a women’s Tour de France will soon be a reality again.]

Michael Chwu (guest ipcopywriter and IP enthusiast) 23 July 2013

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