Sportswear giant Nike and British rugby chiefs are facing a £500,000 legal bill after a top judge ruled there can be no exclusive trademark rights to a national sporting emblem.

The pair alleged UK-based leisurewear firm Cotton Traders was guilty of trademark infringement by producing white rugby shirts featuring the famous English red rose emblem.

But Judge Justice Lloyd ruled against the RFU and Nike, noting: "The essence of the case (by Cotton Traders) is that the English rugby rose is not perceived by members of the public as a mark of trade origin, but as a national emblem or symbol associated with the English rugby team."

Following the hearing, Nike and the RFU said they had not yet ruled out the possibility of an appeal. Legal experts say the ruling could set a precedent when it comes to companies and organisations claiming exclusive rights to national emblems or motifs.