LACOSTE Bullies Domain Name Owner, Loses
Monday, July 27th, 2009
Designer threatens person with last name LaCoste.
Famous 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 â€œlacosteâ€ is a recognised surname and a French place name. The word is capable of innocent usage by, at the very least, people named â€œLaCosteâ€ (or â€œLacosteâ€) and by businesses, associations, societies, utilities and other entities associated with the place. Unless a domain name containing the component â€œlacosteâ€ has been registered and used with abusive intent against a trademark holder, there may not be grounds for complaint.