Jul 5, 2017

A cereal trade mark saga

Around 300 boxes of Weetabix have been impounded by customs officers in New Zealand over a trade mark dispute between the importer of the British cereal and Sanitarium, the Australian manufacturer of Weet-Bix.

Sanitarium requested customs officers impound the boxes of Weetabix because the cereal infringes its rights in its cereal Weet-Bix. Lisa Wilson, co-owner of A Little Bit of Britain, which caters mainly to British ex-pats, imported the Weetabix. Wilson was informed by Sanitarium that she could sell Weetabix if she removed the labelling on the boxes once the cereal was on her store shelves and blanked out the name Weetabix when selling the product online.

Many British expats and New Zealanders have taken to social media to criticise the actions of Sanitarium and call for a boycott of the Australian company's products. The hashtag #freetheweetabix also gathered momentum.

In response to the negative backlash, Rob Scoines, Sanitarium's general manger in New Zealand, has made clear that Weet-Bix is often prevented from selling in other markets due to the prevalence of the Weetabix trade mark and that the company had offered Wilson a solution to sell Weetabix.

However, the dispute appears set to continue as Wilson has said she is prepared to take the case to the high court. In 2013, Sanitarium reached an out of court settlement with an importer of British Marmite, enabling him to continue to sell the product, following similar trade mark infringement allegations.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or legal@mcdanielslaw.com.

in: EU/International, News, Passing Off, Trade Marks

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