LACOSTE Bullies Domain Name Owner, Loses

Designer threatens person with last name LaCoste.

LaCosteFamous designer Lacoste Alligator S.A. has threatened a Massachusetts woman over her company name and domain name, which happens to be the woman’s last name: LaCoste.

In October 2008 the designer sent a cease and desist letter to Audrey LaCoste, demanding that she cease using the domain names LaCosteHealingJewelry.com and LaCostJewelry.com for her business. Perhaps scared of the lawyer’s harsh language and threats of legal action, she agreed to change her company’s name from LaCoste Healing Jewelry to Sterling Identity.

But that wasn’t enough. Lacoste Alligator S.A. demanded that she hand over the domain names. She let the first one expire, and took down the web site at LaCosteJewelry.com. She told Lacoste Alligator that she didn’t see why should transfer the domain name since she wasn’t even using it. That resulted in Lacoste filing an arbitration complaint with WIPO.

Audrey LaCoste did not respond to the complaint at WIPO, but she still won the dispute. The arbitrator wrote:

Words corresponding to trademarks may be capable of innocent usage on the Internet, particularly since domain names are devoid of logos, punctuation, capitalisation, special colours or other associations possible in ordinary print. The word “lacoste” is a recognised surname and a French place name. The word is capable of innocent usage by, at the very least, people named “LaCoste” (or “Lacoste”) and by businesses, associations, societies, utilities and other entities associated with the place. Unless a domain name containing the component “lacoste” has been registered and used with abusive intent against a trademark holder, there may not be grounds for complaint.

Comments

  1. says

    A very fair and balanced decision. It’s wonderful that the lack of a response was not used against her and produced this outcome.

    The panelist should be commended.

  2. Domain Investor says

    I’m impressed that a panelist added some common sense to his decision process.

    My hat is off to Dr. Clive N.A. Trotman (sole panelist).

    Or, maybe he just doesn’t like those “polo” shirts with the alligator on them. :)

    Now, I bet the original owner regrets dropping the other domain.

  3. Andrew says

    Great decision, perfect decision. As for LaCoste, I’ll never buy their products again. They are real bullies and the shit of capitalism.

  4. says

    Great post. Hopefully this thread will show up in searches for Lacoste and they will forever be embarrassed by their unethical legal tactics.

    Welcome to the wall of shame LaCoste?

    Maybe someone will register LaCosteIsABully.com or LaCosteIsALoser.com :-)

  5. says

    Technically, as pointed out by Andrew, a non response does not result in an automatic default. However, it has often been applied as such in many UDRP’s over the years. To not respond leaves too much to chance imo, so my suggestion is to be proactive and to articulate & defend your case.

    There are many shoddy panelists who will side with the complainant and assume your guilt via a non response. Once you lose a UDRP, it is my understanding that it can be referenced in future UDRP’s against you … making a non-responder appear like a serial TM infringer.

    To be blunt, if that was her last name, she had rights in the domain. Sounds like she allowed herself to be intimidated, or didn’t think it through. Shame on Lacoste (the company). I assume Ms. LaCoste wasn’t running ads for alligator shirts.

  6. says

    a great decision. a rare decision. this panelist was one of the rare ones that earned his fee. most of wipos panelists are fulltime ip lawyers who moonlight with wipo and couldnt make a correct decision if their lives depended on it.
    wipo is a quango at best. sad to say this wont set a new precedent as most of the wipo ‘staff’ are twats, however could be used as a point of reference in future defences. again, thanks for posting article

  7. Steve Fox says

    Today Dr. Clive was fired. He bank loans were recalled and his credit cards canceled.

    ICANN has let Lacoste Alligator S.A.refile and a new trial starts tomorrow with a new arbitrator. ICANN has informed Lacoste Alligator S.A. that this trial will be more fair.

  8. says

    I agree, do not buy Lacoste and spread the bad publicity against them specifically how they were trying to bully Ms. or Mrs. LaCoste out of her rightful domain name!

  9. says

    This brings to mind the whole “Nissan” case – how a large corporation can try to bully someone using their own name in commerce that isn’t directly related to the corporation’s business.

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