Breadmaker wins first round of legal battle over rival's 'similar' packaging
Published 26/11/2011 | 05:00
BREAD company McCambridge has won the first stage of a battle against rival Brennans over its use of similar packaging for brown bread.
A judge has ruled that McCambridge is entitled to an injunction against Brennans, after finding that the packaging was likely to confuse customers.
McCambridge Ltd sells its popular Irish stoneground wholewheat bread as a rectangular 500g ready-sliced loaf in resealable packaging, with a dark green panel across the front.
It brought proceedings against Brennans earlier this year after that company began packaging its own wholewheat bread in similar resealable packaging, also with a green panel across the front.
McCambridge claimed Brennans infringed its copyright in its bread packaging and was "passing off" its bread as McCambridge's.
McCambridge claimed that Joseph Brennan Bakeries, trading as Brennans, had set out to intentionally confuse customers of McCambridge's by deliberately copying the packaging of its well-established McCambridge brown bread product.
After yesterday's ruling Michael McCambridge, CEO of McCambridge Ltd, said customers can easily confuse products if the packaging is similar.
"They are rushing to the supermarkets, making mistakes picking up competing products. Not just bread, or McCambridge's bread, but there is a lot of similarity across ranges," he said last night.
Mr Justice Michael Peart will not rule on the precise terms of the injunction until next week, in order to allow lawyers for both sides to consider his finding.
This means it is unclear what changes Brennans might need to make to its product.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Peart said that the Brennans packaging was likely to confuse consumers.
But he added that Brennans had made no deliberate attempt to imitate or copy the McCambridge packaging so as to gain market share or confuse the public.
He said he believed Brennans and its advisers genuinely believed the placing of the company name and logo and other features on the packaging would avoid confusion.
Nonetheless, his concern was the overall appearance of the Brennans product on first impression.
The judge said a bread consumer's first overall impression of the product was crucial, and differentiating between the products would take more care and attention than would be expected of the average shopper.
He said that risk was not overcome by the positioning of the identifiable Brennans colours of yellow and red, its logo and other distinguishing features.
Declan McGrath, for Brennans, said he was not in a position to promise that sales of the product would cease.
But he said it hoped to address the issue with a view to allowing Brennans to "come into compliance".
There will be a later hearing when other issues, including whether McCambridge is entitled to any damages, will be addressed.