PARIS (Reuters) - Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front party, which at the weekend decided to change its name to the National Rally, plans to sue another right-wing politician who accuses her of stealing his party’s name.
The legal sparring comes as Le Pen is trying to revive her movement after defeat to Emmanuel Macron in last year’s presidential election, amid internal disagreements over policy and splits in the party founded by her father.
At a weekend congress, Le Pen secured the backing of members to rename the party the National Rally, a rejig she hopes might put some distance between it and the National Front’s past associations with racism and anti-Semitism.
But as well as evoking the name of other far-right movements of the past - including the collaborationist Rassemblement National Populaire of World War Two - the new name was claimed by Igor Kurek, a little-known French politician who is president of a party called “Rassemblement National” (National Rally).
“Dear Marine, the RN (Rassemblement National) already exists and you can’t deny that when it has stood against your candidates several times since 2014,” Kurek wrote in a letter he published on Twitter.
“The RN is Gaullist and republican right, the FN is extreme right,” he wrote, referring to the National Front. “The FN will NEVER be the RN and the RN will NEVER be the new FN.”
Speaking on RTL radio, Le Pen dismissed Kurek’s claim, saying her party first registered the name “Rassemblement National” in 1986. She said she would take legal action against Kurek for what she called his fraudulent use of the National Front’s flame logo as his party’s symbol.
In France, trademarks and logos are registered with the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI). The INPI register shows that the brand “RN Rassemblement National” and its logo were registered to a Frederick Bigrat in 2013.
In a statement, the National Front said it knew that and had bought the rights by private deed last month.
“This sale is in the process of being recorded by INPI, which explains why research on the prior rights of the trademark still show the name of its previous owner,” the statement said.
A legal battle is perhaps the last thing Marine Le Pen wants. She has already had a public spat with her father, who she kicked out of the party, and has split from her chief adviser, who now heads a rival movement.
The National Front also had its accounts shut down by two banks late last year over regulatory issues.
But Kurek shows little sign of backing down. He told Europe 1 radio he planned to go to court to defend his use of the name and would field candidates in 2020 municipal elections under the Rassamblement National banner.
Additional reporting by Caroline Pailliez; Writing by Luke Baker; Editing by Andrew Heavens