Thursday 20 June 2019

Sona Nutrition beats KKR firm in trademark dispute

Name fight: European Court of Justice rules in favour of Irish firm
Name fight: European Court of Justice rules in favour of Irish firm
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

THE Dublin-based supplements firm Sona Nutrition has emerged victorious in a trademark dispute with a US business owned by private equity giants KKR and Carlyle.

Sona Nutrition won a long-running trademark battle in Europe against Solgar, which is a subsidiary of The Nature's Bounty, based in New York.

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Sona Nutrition, which is owned by businessman Ohan Yergainharsian, objected to Solgar registering a trademark called Multiplus, which the Irish company had registered as a trademark in 1995.

Mr Yergainharsian - who is Armenia's honorary consul to Ireland - founded Sona Nutrition more than 30 years ago.

The company made a €2.1m profit in its 2017 financial year,

Carlyle sold a controlling interest in The Nature's Bounty to KKR in 2017, having acquired the company in 2010 for $3.8bn.

In 2015, Solgar applied to trademark the Multiplus name in Europe for use on products including vitamins, dietetic substances, food for babies, pharmaceutical preparations and herbal preparations.

Soon after, Sona formally opposed the application, citing its 1995 registration of the Multiplus name for the use on products including vitamins, minerals, nutritional supplements, dietetic products and tonics.

But the objection filed by Sona was rejected in 2017 by authorities, as was a subsequent appeal by the Irish company. The European Union Intellectual Property Office board of appeal contended that the Multiplus name was not distinctive with regard to the goods at issue.

But the European Court of Justice has just overturned that decision by the board of appeal. "In describing the element 'multiplus' as being devoid of distinctive character when it was included in the marks applied for, the board of appeal erred in law," the court noted this week.

It added: "It must be pointed out that the error which the board of appeal made… marred all of its reasoning, with the result that the second plea must be upheld and the contested decisions must be annulled without it being necessary to examine the applicant's other arguments."

Sona Nutrition has its own manufacturing facility in Dublin. Accounts for the business show that it had a cash pile totalling €10.1m in 2017.

Irish Independent

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