Food fights: trade marks, passing off and copycat packaging

The news back in September of last year that the Supreme Court of England and Wales had refused yoghurt-maker Chobani permission to appeal against the earlier rulings of the Court of Appeal and High Court brought to an end its dispute with competitor Fage, market leader and owner of the Total brand of Greek yoghurt. That dispute raised (and answered) questions around whether or not Chobani’s use of the words “Greek Yoghurt” to describe its US-produced yoghurt was in fact a form of passing-off which damaged the distinctiveness of the “Greek Yoghurt” description.

This is just the latest in a long line of legal spats between manufacturers in the food sector about what products are called and how they are packaged. Indeed, it is such a hot topic that the Department of Business Innovation and Skills recently launched a consultation on the issue of so-called copycat packaging.

In this article, the IP team at Freeths provides a summary of the main issues, and how intellectual property laws apply in this area

Trade marks

Passing Off

Copycat packaging

Extended passing off

Champagne - Tattinger v Allbev Ltd.Avocaat 

Warnick (Erven) Besloten Veenootschap v J Townend & Sons (Hull) Ltd.Swiss chocolate 

Chocosuisse Union des Fabricants Suisses de Chocolat v Cadbury Ltd.Vodka

Diageo North America, Inc and another v Intercontinental Brands (ICB) Ltd.Most recently, Greek yoghurt  - Fage UK Ltd & Anor v Chobani UK Ltd & Anor.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.