An English court's ruling on an Australian apparel company's Internet business could have a devastating effect on other Australian companies trading online. 

Since 1998, Sydney-based swimwear makers Bo Enfridsson and Tina Hanson have been pursued through the international legal system by Swedish alcohol giant Vin & Spirit - maker of Absolut vodka - which claimed their Absolute Beach label and website infringe the Absolut trademark.

Despite agreeing to stop trading over the Internet and de-registering the Absolut brand name in June 2001, Enfridsson and Hanson have been pursued for court costs and now face closure and a $1 million legal bill.

Lawyers acting for the Swedish government-owned company pursued the couple in the US, Canada, Greece and Sweden, but it was in Britain that the court found any Australian company must "not remain on the Australian companies register if the name includes Absolut".

Despite that fact that a UK judge does not have any power over the register of Australian companies, this decision could be lodged with the Australian courts - and could be used to force other business to close their doors too.