Name confusion case ties up fund raisers

A unique "what's in a name?" row is scheduled to spill over in to the Court of Appeal.

The appeal moves follow a Chancery Division ruling by Mr Justice Robert Walker last year which held that the British Diabetic Society should stop using that name.

Before the full appeal reaches court, however, a hearing is scheduled for 30 October which may block further litigation. The British Diabetic Association is taking the matter to court in preliminary moves in which it is seeking security for costs in respect of the society's appeal.

The appeal follows a landmark passing-off action against the society by the far older British Diabetic Association.

The 150,000-member association successfully argued in the High Court that the society was guilty of passing off in that its name was similar enough to that of the association for the the public to be confused.

On the face of it, the case would appear to be a publicly conducted feud involving the outlay of cash that could be put to better use for the respective charities than funding costly passing-off litigation.

However, the motivation for the action is money. Charities receive huge sums from legacies and other donations and the fear of the association is that money intended for the organisation could go to the society by mistake.

One of the ironies of the case is that, unknown to the parties and before last year's High Court ruling, the Charity Commission had already decided not allow a new charity to be registered whose only difference in title from an existing charity is the word "association" or "society".

Vanessa Hebditch, of the BDA, said: "The rule is in place and this should never happen again."