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October 18, 1999

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France nabs Indian businessman on Peugeot's complaint

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Ranvir Nayar in Paris

A senior employee of Jaipur-based Autolite India has been remanded to police custody by a French court till November 12 in a case allegedly involving violation of design and trademark copyrights.

An appeal to challenge the decision of the magistrate to deny bail will be filed by the defendantís lawyers in the high court at Paris next week when the courts reopen.

Following a complaint lodged by the French car-marker, Peugeot, the businessman, representing the Jaipur-based auto lamps manufacturer, was arrested, from the exposition grounds in Paris where his company was participating in an automotive exhibition.

Autolite had put on display a lamp for the Peugeot 205 car and Peugeot claimed that the Indian company had violated its trademark by displaying the name and had reportedly sought 100,000 French francs in damages. Peugeot also claimed that the design of the lamp was a copy of its own design, thus violating the copyright, a position contested by the Indian company which says that the design was over 16 years old and copyright protection does not extend beyond 10 years.

Incidentally, two other persons, a Taiwanese and a Belgian national, were also arrested from the same exposition on the same complaint by Peugeot, although there are reportedly no specified monetary claims against the two companies.

As it was the same complaint, the case was jointly heard in the same court at Bobigny, a suburb northwest of Paris, where incidentally, most of the cases of illegal immigrants and drug peddlers are heard.

On a plea by the Peugeot lawyers that the company had not had enough time to study the papers presented by the prosecution, the judge decided to adjourn the case to November 12. At this point, the lawyers representing the three accused companies pleaded that in the meanwhile their clients be released on a bail.

The lawyers representing the Indian businessman offerred to deposit his passport and the sum of 100,000 French Francs claimed by Peugeot in the custody of the court as bailbond, pending the trial of the case on November 12.

And even though the prosecution told the judge they did not oppose bail under these conditions, the judge refused bail. When the businessman pleaded again saying that anyway he was not a decision-maker in the company but only an employee, the judge ignored his pleas.

The judge also refused bail to the Taiwanese businesswoman from the company, Un Won Corporation, a manufacturer of rear-view mirrors. However, the Belgian, a white male, representing ICHS, a manufacturer of brakelights, was released on a bail of 30,000 francs and was allowed to return to Belgium.

He may have been released because he is a resident of a Schengen country. However, the Belgian government is not obliged to extradite him if he fails to turn up. As was seen in the cases of two well-known French businessmen who were not extradited to Belgium, even though they were facing serious charges of corruption.

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