Weetabix wars: New Zealand orders Brit cereal to be destroyed

Irving Hamilton
September 25, 2018

Judges said the fact it would go on sale in a UK-themed food store meant there was no chance of customers being mistaken and granted permission for the British product to be stocked.

A Little Bit of Britain, a shop that imports British goods and primarily caters for expats in Christchurch, had been locked in a long-running dispute with breakfast giant Sanitarium.

"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.

However he did find importing the item with a similar name breached the Trade Marks Act and the store would need to cover up the Weetabix label if it was going to sell the cereal in future.

Past year customs officers in New Zealand seized and impounded a shipment of Weetabix after complaints from Sanitarium that the British cereal could confuse customers with their own product, Weet-Bix.

Justice Glendall granted permanent injunction and ruled that Weetabix can only be sold in specialist United Kingdom stores and the word must be covered to protect the Weet-Bix brand.

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Little Bit of Britain, which is based in Christchurch, tried to import Weetabix from the United Kingdom last August.

The store's owner, Lisa Wilson, said this would not be a problem as her customers were more anxious about what was on the inside of the packet than the label.

"They are trying to force us to do what they want because they are a multimillion-dollar company".

The small Christchurch store at the centre of a trademark battle is looking forward to again being able to sell British made Weetabix.

In a social media post following the decision, Ms Wilson celebrated the news with her customers, though explained she would have to cover up the word "Weetabix" on any boxes sold in her shop, as ruled by the judge.

With the 108 initial boxes still detained, Weetabix fans in New Zealand have said they might boycott Sanitarium's version and are calling for the British cereal to be released. The hashtag #freetheweetabix was also widely shared among supporters.

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