New Zealand’s High Court has ordered the destruction of 108 boxes of Weetabix and said that two small stores selling the imported British cereal must cover its name following a legal battle against the maker of Weet-Bix, a similar product that is a staple in New Zealand.
Sanitarium, an Australian and New Zealand firm which makes Weet-Bix, took legal action against A Little Bit of Britain, a family-run business which has two British food shops in Christchurch, saying Weetabix infringed its trademark and was misleading.
The court found that Weetabix breached Sanitarium’s trademark but could still be sold in specialty stores as long as the product name was covered to protect the Weet-Bix brand.
Justice David Glendall ruled that 108 boxes of Weetabix held by customs must be destroyed but noted that they were in any case past their use-by date.
Claiming victory, A Little Bit of Britain said that it planned to import fresh shipments of Weetabix and proposed renaming them “Confuse a Brit”.
“Woohoo! … You can be assured we will be getting Weetabix in our next container,” the business said on its Facebook page. “As per the Judge’s ruling, we have to sticker over the Weetabix logo so please help us out and let us know below what you think we should call it. We were thinking ‘confuse a brit’ since they think we are so easily led astray.”
Others suggested “Blightybix”, “We pay taxabix” or “Betta-bix – because they are!”.
Lisa Wilson, the co-owner of A Little Bit of Britain, said her stores mainly sold products to British expatriates. She said her stores, which also stock products such as Marmite, McVities digestives and Ribena syrups, sell about seven boxes of Weetabix a day.
Sanitarium also claimed victory, saying it was “absolutely happy and pleased" with the outcome.
"It’s not so much about Little Bit of Britain selling Weetabix, but more about the protection of the Weet-Bix trademark," Rob Scoines, the firm’s general manager in New Zealand, told the New Zealand Herald.
"The judgement enables us to protect our brand, which supports the employment of New Zealanders and contributes to the community."
A survey provided to the court found that 35 per cent of people assumed Weetabix was a Sanitarium product.
Ms Wilson said she expected sales of Weetabix to soar following the judgment.
"Normally we sell a pallet a month and I thought crikey we might need to get two or three just for the first month [to] clear the backlog,” she told Radio New Zealand. “But I’m sure with it being gone for a year and a half that it is definitely going to be the best seller for the next while anyway."