‘Britain’ shops counter-claiming against Sanitarium

Shops blocked from importing Weetabix breakfast food from Britain are seeking compensation in a counter-claim against cereal giant Sanitarium.

Counsel for the A Little Bit of Britain shops outlined the reasons for the claim as the shops presented their defence case at a civil hearing before Justice David Gendall in the High Court at Christchurch today.

Sanitarium has taken legal action to protect its Weet-Bix brand in the three-day hearing. It has argued that the British-made breakfast food Weetabix – imported by the shops in Riccarton, Kaiapoi, and online – infringes its trademark.

The dispute reached a head when a consignment of more than 360 boxes of Weetabix were seized by Customs on their arrival in New Zealand.

The shops said in court today that a counter-claim for compensation was being made because those imported products were now beyond their best-before date and could not be sold.

They argued the actions of Customs were unlawful and the goods should have been released.

The importation did not amount to a breach of the Fair Trading Act, Justice Gendall was told. The law allowed importation of products which had trademarks registered in their own country – in this case Britain.

The names were not identical, and there was not likely to be confusion “having regard to the discerning nature of the defendant’s customers”, counsel said.

The hearing involves civil action taken by the Australasian Conference Association Ltd and others against A Little Bit of Britain Ltd and others. It began on Monday.

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