Ghee producer moves to settle lawsuit

A dairy com­pa­ny of New Zealand, which pro­duces a pop­u­lar brand of ghee (clar­i­fied but­ter), is seek­ing to set­tle its trade­mark in­fringe­ment law­suit against a lo­cal su­per­mar­ket chain.

In Ju­ly, New Zealand Milk Brands Lim­it­ed, the pro­duc­er of Cow Brand Ghee, sued Food Bas­ket In­ter­na­tion­al Lim­it­ed, of Princes Town, for al­leged­ly im­port­ing and dis­trib­ut­ing an im­i­ta­tion prod­uct.

Malaysian com­pa­ny Sime Dar­by Foods and Bev­er­ages Mar­ket­ing, which pro­duces the dis­put­ed prod­uct was al­so list­ed as a de­fen­dant to the claim.

When the case came up for hear­ing in the Hall of Jus­tice in Port-of-Spain yes­ter­day morn­ing, High Court Judge Frank Seep­er­sad was ex­pect­ed to rule on whether to con­tin­ue an in­junc­tion bar­ring the sale and dis­tri­b­u­tion of the prod­uct.

How­ev­er, Seep­er­sad was in­formed by the com­pa­nies’ lawyers that they were locked in ne­go­ti­a­tions to set­tle the claim.

At­tor­ney Col­in Kan­ga­loo, who is rep­re­sent­ing the Malaysian man­u­fac­tur­er, claimed that his client want­ed to avoid pro­tract­ed lit­i­ga­tion as it may af­fect its po­si­tion on the Malaysian Stock Ex­change.

The par­ties asked Seep­er­sad to dis­charge the in­junc­tion and to give them four weeks in which to re­port back on their fi­nal de­ci­sion on the case.

Al­though Seep­er­sad had pre­pared a 13-page rul­ing in prepa­ra­tion for yes­ter­day’s hear­ing, he ap­proved the ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the par­ties.

The com­pa­ny ini­ti­at­ed the le­gal ac­tion in No­vem­ber last year af­ter its lo­cal dis­trib­u­tor ADM Im­port & Ex­port Dis­trib­u­tors Lim­it­ed dis­cov­ered the of­fend­ing prod­uct be­ing sold at its Food Bas­ket’s Hy­per Mar­ket in Ari­ma.

The prod­uct, which the com­pa­ny claims has the po­ten­tial to con­fuse its reg­u­lar cus­tomers, has al­so been dis­trib­uted to oth­er re­tail­ers across T&T.

The of­fend­ing prod­uct is al­leged­ly pack­aged in sim­i­lar green tins with plas­tic lids and us­es sim­i­lar la­belling in­clud­ing an iden­ti­cal font.

In ad­di­tion to a per­ma­nent block on the im­por­ta­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion of the prod­uct, the com­pa­ny was seek­ing com­pen­sa­tion for trade­mark in­fringe­ment and for breach­es un­der the Pro­tec­tion from Un­fair Com­pe­ti­tion Act.

As part of its claim, the com­pa­ny at­tached its sales fig­ures for 2012 to last year, which to­talled $74 mil­lion. It al­so claimed that $2 mil­lion is ex­pend­ed an­nu­al­ly for mar­ket­ing the prod­uct.

In its de­fence, Food Bas­ket de­nied any wrong­do­ing and claimed that the prod­ucts can be dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed based on the sig­nif­i­cant price dif­fer­ence.

Food Bas­ket is be­ing rep­re­sent­ed by Faa­rees Ho­sein. New Zealand Milk Brands is be­ing rep­re­sent­ed by Kim­ber­leigh Pe­ter­son, Bryan Mc­Cutcheon and Ar­i­ane Ram­nath.

- by Derek Achong

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