By Peter Griffiths
LONDON (Reuters) - Two dentists have won a second legal battle with French fashion giant Lacoste over the right to use a toothy crocodile on the sign outside their surgery, the government trademark body said on Thursday.
Dentists Dr Simon Moore and Dr Tim Rumney said they chose a crocodile for their logo because the reptile is famous for having a mouth full of teeth.
But Lacoste argued that the dentists' sign was too similar to their own emblem, a green crocodile that adorns millions of polo shirts around the world.
After losing the first round of its trademark fight last year, Lacoste appealed to London's UK Intellectual Property Office, the official body responsible for patents, trademarks and copyright issues.
The office upheld the original decision, saying that consumers were unlikely to confuse the dental practice and the clothing company.
The dentists' logo includes the words "The Dental Practice" and does not share the Lacoste crocodile's knobbly back and red tongue.
The Lacoste logo comes from the French tennis player Rene Lacoste, who was nicknamed "The Alligator" or "The Crocodile" in the 1920s. He struck a deal with a manufacturer to make clothes with a crocodile logo.
The dentists, from Cheltenham, southwest England, said Lacoste's action was like "using a sledgehammer to crack a nut."
"We liked the crocodile design because of the natural association with teeth," Dr Moore told the Times. "They have little birds that pick bits out of their teeth."
Lacoste was ordered to pay a total of 1,450 pounds in legal costs. The appeal ruling is online at: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/tm/t-decisionmaking/t-challenge/t-challenge-decision-results/o36107.pdf
(Editing by Steve Addison)
© Reuters 2008 All rights reserved
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