A ruling is expected soon in one of the most critical battles waged by Harrods to protect its jealously guarded name.

The Knightsbridge store is attempting to block moves, originating from South America, to sell off the name world-wide to the highest bidder.

If the action failed, Charles Sparrow QC told Mr Justice Neuberger, the effect could be to "dissolve" the company's reputation.

The Harrods motto, Omnia Omnibus Ubique (everything for everyone everywhere), could become meaningless, said Sparrow, who is instructed by Hammond Suddards.

The company has been involved in numerous cases in the past to protect its name, but this one is probably the most important to date.

It is seeking to stop London-registered Harrods (Buenos Aires) and its associate company Harrods (South America) cashing in on an 80-year-old agreement entitling them to use the Harrods name in Buenos Aires, by selling the right to use it worldwide.

If that were to happen, said Harrods, its name would become meaningless and its reputation diminished.

The case is not as straight-forward as some past actions. The original right for the name of Harrods to be used in Buenos Aires was established at the start of this century at a time when Argentina was a wealthy country. Harrods (Buenos Aires) was established by the original Harrods with the aim of setting up and running a store by the same name in Buenos Aires.

Until 1945, both companies shared common directors. However, in the late 1960s the original Harrods sold its shares in Harrods (Buenos Aires) but allowed it to continue using the name.

With the downturn in the Argentinian economy, Sparrow said that the Buenos Aires company is now said to be "on the rocks" and attempting to "salvage its position" by trying to sell the famous name.