Explosives firm weighs steps against Madonna over Semtex


International icon Madonna may be enjoying phenomenal success with her new album "Confessions on a Dance Floor", but her lawyers may have to inform her she's made something of a slip-up. According to reports, the singer founded a new company called Semtex Girls Ltd. - a move that puts her potentially at odds with the Czech explosives company that developed the Semtex plastic explosive made infamous by terrorists in the 1980s. The company now produces the explosive only in very limited amounts for the Czech army, but it continues to own the trademark.

Radio Prague spoke to Ladislav Lehky, director of the Research Institute for Industrial Chemistry - owned by the company, who confirmed that the famous pop singer has failed to ask for permission to use the trademark, itself worth around 60 million crowns. That, is the equivalent of around 2.5 million US.

"So far we are taking standard steps, which means having our legal representatives look into the matter to assess the degree of infringement - if there has been infringement - on the Semtex name. We'll make a decision on the basis of their findings. It's not necessarily a clear-cut situation and we need to know where we stand. If there have been damages, our lawyers will meet with the new company to try and reach some kind of agreement. That's usually how such cases are settled."

According to Ladislav Lehky, the Semtex trademark is well protected internationally, although he stresses there are always grey areas. Even in the Czech Republic the word Semtex is used as the name of a popular Czech energy drink. There, the drink's manufacturer acquired the rights to use the Semtex name, but only after both sides settled after a drawn-out legal battle.

"We settled financially and in the end agreed they have a right to use the word Semtex in the energy-drinks segment. The main thing is that we reached agreement. They were issued a license to use the trademark and it is possible that with [Madonna's company] the outcome will be similar."

As for Madonna? We'll have to see how she reacts. For now, Semtex Girls remains a mystery: nobody really yet knows what it will actually "do". Some Internet sites predicted its focus will be fashion, and that wouldn't be that unusual a step. But, the singer has been more than a little secretive, remarking only that "the Semtex girl is a girl who is dynamic, a girl who explodes, who doesn't know the meaning of 9 to 5 and is... unstoppable".

A description that might well apply to the Material Girl herself.