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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Two of the world's biggest oil companies are slugging it out in the British High Court. BP and Shell are fighting over a single word: "power." Stephen Beard reports from London.

STEPHEN BEARD: This is a trademark battle and a power struggle of sorts.

BP claims that Shell has infringed its Power trademark by naming its new premium oil brand "V-Power." Shell vigorously rejects the claim. The company says it has simply employed a word in everyday use.

So what's in a word? Quite a lot, says trademark attorney Maggie Ramage.

RAMAGE: It's quite common for companies to use single everyday words as trademarks. And it's possible to build up rights in those marks although it can take years. You can prevent others from using the name and it can be an extremely valuable asset for the company.

BP guards jealously what it considers to be its trademarks. The company has just tried to copyright a particular shade of green in Australia, but that legal action failed. Australia's Federal Court ruled the shade of green was not sufficiently distinctive to belong only to BP.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.