Lacoste snaps but dentists bite back – and win!

A Cheltenham dental practice has won a second legal battle with international fashion giant Lacoste over the right to use a toothy crocodile on the sign outside their surgery.

For the second time in a year, a trademark judge has rejected the French clothing company’s complaints.

Lacoste had argued that the sign could wrongly lead people to associate the surgery with its brand because their emblem is a green crocodile which adorns millions of polo shirts around the world.

But dentists Simon Moore and Tim Rumney said they simply chose the reptile because it’s famous for having a mouth full of teeth.

The battle began in September 2004 when the dentists attempted to register the crocodile logo which they have used at their Gloucestershire dental practice since 1990. But lawyers for Lacoste objected and, after losing the first round of its trademark fight last year, the fashion company appealed to London’s UK Intellectual Property Office, the official body responsible for patents, trademarks and copyright issues.

Ann Corbett, an adjudicator for the IPO, agreed, ruling that the two crocodiles were different enough to avoid confusion. ‘Dental services are so different to clothing that … the average consumer of the goods and services in question, who is reasonably well informed and reasonably observant and circumspect, would not make that mistake."

Lacoste appealed, and the case was put before the UK Intellectual Property in London, but the judge, Professor Ruth Annand, has rejected the appeal.

Yesterday, dentist Simon Moore said Lacoste’s legal action was ‘using a sledgehammer to crack a nut’. He said: ‘We chose a crocodile as our logo simply because of the animal’s association with a lot of teeth, nothing to do with Lacoste.’

At the original hearing Lacoste was ordered to pay £1,000 towards the practice’s legal costs. After the failed appeal, it has been ordered to pay a further £450.

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