Lush Cosmetics and beauty industry rival The Body Shop are marching toward a legal
dust-up over what the former today described as a "disgraceful Web deceit".
Lush has accused The Body Shop of breaching trademark regulations after discovering that visitors to New Zealand Web site, www.lush.co.nz were being directed to its competitor's international site.
Lush claimed The Body Shop was attempting to trade on its goodwill and reputation.
The company has sought legal advice concerning the Web site and said that it may make demands for loss of sales unless the site was "returned" within seven days.
The Web site was bought to the attention of Lush executives after a customer noticed the anomaly. The site was pulled by its administrator early this morning, but not in time to forestall some sabre rattling in the Lush camp.
In an angry statement released by Lush Cosmetics today, the beauty retailer's New Zealand country manager, Valerie Henderson, described the alleged act of deceit as "not only a breach of the law but also a breach of public trust".
"We are thankful a Lush fan advised us of the misleading Web site, but we are disappointed that the Body Shop has acted so underhandedly," said Henderson.
New Zealand domain name records list Mark Fulton as the registered owner of lush.co.nz. At this stage Fulton's relationship with The Body Shop is not clear. Nor is it clear whether he or the company played a deliberate role in the alleged trademark infringement.
The contact number that Fulton originally supplied to his Christchurch-based domain registrar, RegisterDirect, was not reachable when ZDNet Australia attempted to contact him earlier today.
A representative of RegisterDirect told ZDNet Australia it would be seeking updated contact details from Fulton but said there were no local regulations governing how he chose to use the domain name.
The Body Shop's Australian operation distanced itself from the squabble when ZDNet Australia contacted its Melbourne office for comment today.
However, Shelly Mansfield, communications officer for The Body Shop in New Zealand later contacted ZDNet Australia . She said that the site had been removed after the company made contact with Fulton late this morning.
Mansfield said the redirect was the result of a technical glitch that Fulton was unable to explain.
The Body Shop supplied ZDNet Australia with contact details for Fulton to verify its version of events, but this writer was unable to reach him to verify the claims.
Unlike Australia, New Zealand does not impose restrictions on who can qualify to register a particular domain name. Australia's domain authority auDA requires organisations and individuals demonstrate a commercial claim to names and phrases they wish to register.
Representatives of Lush Cosmetics said the company's New Zealand office was late this morning seeking further legal advice on the matter when ZDNet Australia contacted the company for further clarifications concerning its legal claim.