New Zealand shop battles in court over Weetabix imports

By News from Elsewhere... found by BBC Monitoring

Image source, Jeff Greenberg
Image caption,
Weet-bix is one of Australia and New Zealand's best-known brands

A shop owner in New Zealand is involved in a battle of the breakfast cereals after her plans to import British favourite Weetabix ended up in court.

British expat Lisa Wilson wanted to sell the wheat-based breakfast to homesick Britons in her Canterbury-based shop A Little Bit of Britain, but has come up against domestic manufacturer Sanitarium, which says the brand name is too similar to their own local brand Weet-Bix, Radio New Zealand reports.

Customs officials seized a shipment of Weetabix last August after a complaint by Sanitarium.

Weet-Bix is a hugely popular brand in both Australia and New Zealand complete with celebrity endorsements, and Sanitarium are keen to protect their trademark.

"The issue is the potential and real threat of Weetabix coming into this market and cashing in on this great brand that Kiwis love," Sanitarium's Rob Scoines told the New Zealand Herald.

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Mr Scoines pointed out last August that Weet-Bix cannot be sold in the UK because of its similarity to British brand Weetabix.

Image caption,
British packets of Weetabix with the all-important 'a'

Customers confused?

With the case at the High Court in Christchurch hinging on whether customers are likely to be confused by the difference between a hyphen and the letter 'a', Ms Wilson thinks that her largely expatriate customers in New Zealand know exactly what they're buying.

"The Weetabix box actually has the UK price in pound sterling written on the front... and I have never had anybody asking why our Weetabix are so expensive, thinking they were New Zealand products," she says. "They know they are British Weetabix as we sell British groceries."

She went on to tell the local Newshub website that she's making no attempt to pass the cereal off as Weet-Bix, and has turned down a compromise offered by Sanitarium to have the Weetabix logo covered.

Ms Wilson is hoping for a swift judgment in the case, not least because last August's shipment is still being held by customs officials.

Tomorrow is the last day of the hearing; however, Ms Wilson may have a bit longer to wait, with Radio NZ saying that Justice David Gendall is likely to reserve judgement.

Reporting by Alistair Coleman

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