Tuesday 29 June 2010

Nessie centres in £1.3m legal row

A LONG-running feud between two neighbouring Loch Ness Monster visitor attractions has escalated, with one now suing the other for £1.3 million.

Thousands of people each year visit the Official Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Centre in Drumnadrochit - owned by the Bremner family - and the Original Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Centre 100 yards away, run by Donald and Gillian Skinner.

Now Robbie Bremner has raised a civil action in Inverness Sheriff Court claiming Mr and Mrs Skinner have spent more than 20 years deliberately trying to drive visitors away from his family's business and through the doors of their similarly named centre.

He has lodged a claim for more than £1.3 million, which he estimates is profit he has missed out on as a result of the custom and trade from these "lost" visitors since 1987 when the rival centre opened.

The Skinners have also been accused by Mr Bremner of using the same blue and orange colour scheme in their marketing, advertising and signage. The action states that a "... large number of visitors to the centre expressed confusion and concerns at the similarities of the signs, trading names and promotional material." which has been a deliberate attempt to "create confusion".

Mr Bremner is also angry about the use of the word "original" by the Skinners, claiming it gives the impression it predates his family's business, which is not the case. He wants the Skinners to stop using that title and other similar titles.

However, the Skinners deny the claims, stating Mr Bremner has used a variety of different trading names with the words Loch Ness in the past 11 years while also employing a variety of different colour styles, layouts and designs on promotional material. The first day of the case yesterday saw evidence halted as both sides' lawyers held talks in an attempt to settle the case. Sheriff Ian Abercrombie urged both parties to come to a conclusion.

"I think it is important that as much time and effort is taken to narrow the issues as much as possible," he said. "I hope that these negotiations bear fruit overnight."

The court case comes only a year after police officers were called to the village when Mr Skinner allegedly defaced a sign erected on the A82 by the trunk road's maintenance contractor company Scotland Transerv.
It contained an arrow directing motorists to Mr Bremner's visitor attraction, but a sticker was swiftly plastered over it which instead pointed towards Mr Skinner's business.

Mr Bremner claims Mr Skinner "deliberately defaced the signage in a deliberate attempt to create such confusion."

The action also describes the Skinner's centre as being of an "inferior nature" because it does not offer the standard of facilities, service or hospitality his five-start VisitScotland establishment does.
Mr Bremner describes himself as "reasonably apprehensive" because he fears the current situation will continue during the current summer tourist season, which is the centre's most profitable time of the year.

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