The daughter of the Body Shop founder Anita Roddick was defeated yesterday in a High Court trademark battle with Chanel over her attempt to use the word "Coco" in the name of a sex goods shop.
Samantha Roddick was never going to find it easy winning a case in which she claimed that the name "Coco" - which has been synonymous with feminine refinement for more than 90 years ago - was suitable for an establishment selling whips, harnesses and sex toys.
Ms Roddick, 33, insisted that her shop, which opened three years ago in Covent Garden, London, appealed to women - rather than "the more downmarket and sleazy sex shops that are mainly directed at men". The perfect name was Coco de Mer - after the Seychellois palm nut that resembles a female bottom and genitalia and is seen as a feminine symbol of fertility.
But in a painstaking written judgment which delved deep into the folklore of palm tree copulation and included a drawing of the plant in question, Mr Justice Patten sided with Chanel, which said it might become associated with the sex products. He ruled that the trademark registrar had been right to refuse to register the name Coco de Mer, because of the risk of confusing the public.
Martin Hamilton, a director of Chanel, had said in evidence to the court that his company placed great emphasis on the quality of its range, which had "become associated ... with the finest standards available in perfumes and fashion accessories". He said the annual turnover of all Chanel products - a business founded in Paris in 1910 by Gabrielle Chanel and launched in the UK 15 years later - was more than £13m. The "Coco" mark had been used since 1984 on fragrances, toiletries, cosmetics and many other products.
Chanel was chiefly concerned that perfume, jewellery, clothing and shoes bearing the Coco de Mer logo could be sold alongside its own brands in department stores.
Dismissing Ms Roddick's appeal against the registrar's decision, Mr Justice Patten said: "It seems to me that the average consumer ... may well assume that there is an economic link between the two products and the goods bearing the Coco de Mer mark are simply a brand or variant of those marked Coco."