Judge orders destruction of Weetabix boxes in trademark dispute

Owners of New Zealand’s Weet-Bix takes shop selling British cereal to high court

Lucy Wilson, the owner of A Little Bit of Britain, said the look, taste and packaging of Weet-Bix and Weetabix were completely different and could not be easily confused. Photographs: Bryan O’Brien/Danilla/flickr.com/photos/danzden

Lucy Wilson, the owner of A Little Bit of Britain, said the look, taste and packaging of Weet-Bix and Weetabix were completely different and could not be easily confused. Photographs: Bryan O’Brien/Danilla/flickr.com/photos/danzden

 

A shop has breached the Trade Marks Act and 108 boxes of Weetabix held by customs in New Zealand must be destroyed, a judge has ruled.

A Little Bit of Britain will have to cover the labels of any boxes of Weetabix it sells from now on, the judge added, at the end of a trial that pitted the shop against the breakfast firm Sanitarium.

Customs officers in New Zealand seized and impounded the shipment of Weetabix last year after complaints from Sanitarium that shoppers could confuse the British cereal with its own product, Weet-Bix.

The pallet of Weetabix arrived in a container load of British goods destined for the shelves of A Little Bit of Britain grocery store in Christchurch, which largely serves British expats.

But Sanitarium claimed the cereal shipment of Weetabix infringed its trademark cereal Weet-Bix, which is a staple in many New Zealand homes.

Sanitarium took its case to the high court but in a reserved decision on Tuesday, judge David Gendall found there was no chance of customers being confused because Weetabix was only available at a speciality goods store selling British products.

‘Bullying’

Lisa Wilson, the co-owner of A Little Bit of Britain, accused Sanitarium of “bullying” her small, family-run business.

“They are trying to force us to do what they want because they are a multimillion-dollar company.”

Other British goods stores in the North Island have complied with Sanitarium’s demands to cover up the Weetabix label when they sell the product.

Ms Wilson said her grocery store sold about seven boxes of Weetabix a day to mostly British immigrants. She said the look, taste and packaging of Weet-Bix and Weetabix were completely different and could not be easily confused.

The detained shipment of Weetabix drew scorn from British expats and New Zealanders alike, some of whom said they would start boycotting Sanitarium’s products in New Zealand. The hashtag #freetheweetabix was also widely shared among supporters. – Guardian