A UK retailing company has begun a landmark action at the High Court against Dunnes Stores.

The Mosaic company, which owns the Karen Millen, Coast and Whistles women's clothing chains, is accusing Dunnes of deliberately copying and selling its designs.

Mosaic is taking the action in the High Court's Commercial Court, under a 2002 EU regulation which protects 'new and individual' designs. It is the first case of its kind to be heard in this country.

Mosaic is accusing Dunnes of copying and selling two garments by Karen Millen, two by Coast and one by Whistles.

Senior Counsel, Michael McDowell, acting for Mosaic, handed in a Karen Millen sweater and a Karen Millen shirt to the court this morning.

He said these had been designed by Karen Millen's team of designers and launched in shops in December 2005.  

He said Dunnes Stores had purchased the products and had then given them to a fashion house to make exact copies. He said they hadn't just arrived at the same design independently but had engaged in 'parasitical copying'.     

He said the similarities between the clothes went far beyond the possibility of coincidence.  And he said there would be a paper trail showing the clothes had been given to a fashion house and deliberately copied. 

The Dunnes Stores sweater was made in China he said, and the shirt was made in Turkey.  Both were sold in Dunnes under the 'Savida' label.

Mr McDowell told the court they were not seeking damages in respect of the clothes. 

But they said Dunnes had infringed their rights under the EU's Community Unregistered Design Right and they would be looking for an account of profits from Dunnes.