Possibility of confusion between Knocknacarra medical practices ends up in court

A Galway doctor took court action against a colleague last week over the choice of name for his new state-of-the-art medical practice. Dr Patrick Meagher of Clybaun Road, Knocknacarra brought Dr Michael Casey, also of Clybaun Road, to Clifden Court to dispute the title chosen for his newly established medical practice.

Dr Meagher, who has run Clybaun Surgery for more than 11 years, became worried when Dr Casey opened Clybaun Medical Practice in May, that it would, “cause confusion among his patients and with post”. He telephoned Dr Casey to outline his concerns that the name was very similar to that of his own practice. Dr Casey told him he didn’t think there would be any confusion and to let it run for a while to see what would happen.

Dr Meagher maintained that people were becoming confused by the two practices having ‘Clybaun’ in the title, especially as they are both situated on Clybaun Road. He told the court that the postman was making incorrect deliveries, telephone bills were being sent to the wrong location, patients belonging to his practice were sitting up in the Clybaun Medical Practice thinking they were in his surgery, and he was being disrupted by having to answer the phone to Dr Casey’s patients during consultations with his own patients as he does not employ a secretary.

Through correspondence with their respective solicitors, Dr Casey suggested changing the name to Fearnog Medical Practice, to which Dr Meagher said he would have no problem, “indeed I told my solicitor that he would have my blessing if he did so.” When asked if he believed that Dr Casey was representing the service which he offered as his service, Dr Meagher replied “I don’t believe he is saying he is me but I do believe that by naming the practice Clybaun Medical Practice that he is not averse to any benefit that might arise from the confusion caused from the similarity of the names.”

Mr Francis Comerford counsel for Dr Meagher put it to Dr Casey that he was an extremely successful general practitioner. Dr Casey in evidence stated that he was in general practice for 26 years and that he had a client base built up over those years and would have no intention of passing off as any other person’s business.

Dr Meagher, whose surgery operates from his private house, said “I feel that his practice premises is a larger premises than mine with much bigger signage and I feel that people referred to see me by their friends or relatives may gravitate towards the larger practice with the bigger sign” When asked why he didn’t put up a bigger sign outside his own surgery, Dr Meagher replied, “there is no other sign, as far as I know, like that in any other general practice that I have ever seen anywhere in the country. I haven’t come across a sign of that nature. The sign is not the issue, it’s what’s on the sign rather that the size of the sign”.

It was then pointed out that Dr Casey had changed the signage to Clybaun Medical Practice (Fearnog ) and that Dr Casey had also included the name ‘Fearnog’ over the entrance doorway, but Dr Meagher was not satisfied to accept this change as being adequate.

Before reaching his final decision, Judge Raymond Groarke stated that the dispute should not have reached this stage and it was sad to see two professional men engaging in a case like this. He said what was important in this case was whether persons were likely to be deceived.

“We all get postal deliveries and wonder how in the name of goodness they get to our door. I do take the point that it is essential that communications with a medical practice of whatever nature can often be extremely urgent and warrant no shall we say interference with a speedy delivery”.

Judge Groarke said people were likely to be deceived having regard to the “sameness” in the practice names and also because of the short distance separating both businesses. He concluded that the plaintiff had a valid complaint against the defendant.

The new name chosen by Dr Casey is “Knocknacarra Medical Centre, Clybaun Rd”

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