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