Bulgarian meat-processing company fined for unfair competition

On June 23 2011 Bulgaria’s Commission for the Protection of Competition ordered one of the country's largest meat-processing companies, Mekom JSC, to pay a fine of €168,000 (approximately $236,000) for producing and selling a flat sausage under the name Karloska Krepost. The commission found that 'Karloska Krepost' was similar to 'Karlovska Lukanka', a protected designation of origin for the traditional Bulgarian flat sausage ('lukanka') produced in the town of Karlovo in central Bulgaria.

The commission established that consumers might be misled by the similarity between:
  • the appearance of the two products;
  • the brand names; and
  • the font used on the packaging of the products.
According to the commission, consumers might perceive the words 'Karlovska' and 'Karloska', both written in capital letters, as being identical, since the absence of a single letter might be understood as a mistake or simply go unnoticed.

Furthermore, the word 'krepost' ('fortress'), which was intended to distinguish Mekom’s product, was written in small, indiscernible letters against a dark background that made it difficult to read.

Mekom (which is based in Silistra, north-eastern Bulgaria) argued that:
  • its product was named after a historical personality, namely the 15th-century knight Karlos, who conquered an old fortress in Silistra; and
  • 'Karloska Krepost' did not indicate the geographical origin of the product.
This is the second time that the commission has issued a decision in this case. The Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria revoked the first decision in February 2011 after Mekom filed an appeal for alleged breaches of administrative procedures.

Preslav Penev, PETOŠEVIC, Sofia

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