Trademarks Council denounces four look-a-likes
The Swedish Trademarks Council (Varumärkesrådet), a panel of independent experts that was established last year to investigate cases of product imitation, has so far heard four cases, in each case finding that large convenience store chains have violated Swedish legal principles and canons of business ethics by selling privately labelled products that imitate the shape, size, labelling and/or colouring of branded products.
Labelling products in this way is known as 'piggy-backing'. Almost without exception, these products are carefully designed so as to avoid being caught by trademark rules (despite the risk of consumer confusion). However, they may still infringe unfair competition rules.
Although the Trademarks Council has no legal powers, its opinions are designed to put pressure on 'piggy-backers' to stop imitating branded products. So far the council has discovered and issued opinions on four cases of brand imitation, including those involving:
- Kraft Foods' ground coffee GEVALIA (Decision 1:2002);
- GB Glace's ice-cream dessert VIENNETTA (Decision 2:2002);
- Unilever's rinsing agent COMFORT (Decision 1:2003); and
- Procter & Gamble's dishwashing detergent YES (Decision 2:2003).
The impact of the council's opinions in these cases remains to be seen as all four imitations have yet to be taken off the market. The ordinary court system provides a stronger enforcement regime but as yet this system has not been brought to bear on any of these cases.
Peter Skoglund, Advokatfirman Delphi & Co, Stokholm
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