Welcome to RPC Bites. Our aim in the next 2 minutes is to give you a taste of some key legal, regulatory and business developments in the food and beverage sector over the past fortnight… with some occasional industry gossip added. for good measure. Enjoy!!
Food and drink retailers support Ukraine
As the tragic situation in Ukraine escalates, various food and beverage retailers have pledged support for the country. Brewing giant AB InBev announced on LinkedIn that its Belgian brewery in Leuven will fill half a million cans of still water, for transport to border checkpoints in Poland and Moldova.
In the same vein, Tesco distribution centers in Budapest, Bratislava and Prague are working to help Ukrainian refugees. Countless grocers, including Morrisons, Co-Op, Waitrose, Aldi and Sainsbury’s, have removed products of Russian origin – mainly vodka – from their shelves and online offerings and M&S has suspended all shipments to its Russian stores.
Over the past fortnight, the agribusiness sector has already begun to see the immense impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the human tragedy that is unfolding. We at RPC are united in our condemnation of the invasion and our hearts go out to the safety of all those in Ukraine who have fled Ukraine, as well as colleagues, clients and friends who have families. and loved ones who have been affected. . Read more
Aldi registers the “Cuthbert” trademark
In Issue 43 of RPC Bites, we reported that Aldi and M&S have reached a confidential settlement over the high-profile ‘Colin v Cuthbert’ dispute.
Following publication in the Trade Marks Journal on February 18, 2022, it recently emerged that Aldi had filed a trademark for the now notorious name. Aldi’s specifications, which go beyond cakes and other baked goods, cover a range of goods and services, including coasters, toys and other merchandise.
The move appears to be aimed at exploiting Cuthbert, who has become something of a social media star during the dispute, and capitalizing on his newfound fame. Following its publication, the application is now subject to a two-month opposition period. If no objections are filed, we could see Cuthbert™ branded products appear on shelves as early as late spring 2022. Learn more
UK IPO uncovers gin-uine use of brand
The UKIPO has rejected an application by Inver House Distillers for revocation of a competitor’s mark. The decision was taken on the basis that genuine use of the mark in question, in the United Kingdom, had been successfully demonstrated.
In July 2014, the contested mark, which incorporates the “master’s logo”, a lion and the pointed shape of the product’s bottle, was registered for gin (specifically, London Dry Gin) in class 33, in the EU. After the expiry of the Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020, a comparable UK mark was automatically created by UKIPO. Inver sought to revoke the UK trade mark under section 46 of the Trade Marks Act 1994 on the ground of non-use between July 2014 to 2019 and March 2016 to March 2021 (the relevant period).
UKIPO found there was a lack of evidence from the brand owner, who submitted only 17 invoices and a handful of social media posts and media coverage to support his claim. case. In particular, UKIPO noted that the provision of 17 bills during the relevant period was “far from overwhelming”, particularly when viewed through the lens of the burgeoning UK gin market. Despite this, she concluded that the genuine use of the recording had been demonstrated. This was because there was “a constant and repeated pattern of sales to an exclusive retailer throughout the relevant periods” and because the owner had “attempted to create and maintain a market for its products under its brand “.
The decision will reassure trademark owners, in that it will demonstrate that use of a mark does not need to be substantial to be genuine. Read more
Eliminate fruit and vegetable packaging
Wrap, a UK-based waste reduction charity, works with all major supermarkets and suppliers, as part of the Courtauld Commitment 2030 and the UK Plastics Pact. These are: (i) removing plastic packaging from fresh fruits and vegetables; and (ii) remove expiration dates, unless the label can be shown to reduce overall food waste.
Wrap’s proposals are the result of an 18-month research project which found that selling all apples, bananas and potatoes in bulk could “save 60,000 tonnes of food waste and reduce plastic packaging by 8,800 tons per year”. The project also found that removing expiration labels from the same produce, as well as cucumbers and broccoli, could eliminate an additional 50,000 tonnes of household food waste each year.
Although seemingly a big step forward, implementing the changes will likely take some time and may vary from supermarket to supermarket, depending on capabilities such as in-store checkouts with the ability to weigh items in bulk. Read more
M&S meets its match(stick)
M&S found itself at the center of another dispute over copycat products last month, but this time the high-end grocer was the one on the front lines. Choc on Choc, a family business based in Bath, took to social media to allege that M&S Valentine’s Day themed ‘Perfect Match’ chocolate matches were an almost identical copy of a product that Choc on Choc had been selling since 2015.
Following thousands of online messages of support from other small businesses and consumers, M&S contacted Choc on Choc to resolve the dispute. Choc on Choc owner Flo Broughton confirmed the retailer had been both cooperative and respectful, revealing it had pledged to sell Choc on Choc chocolate matches and that agreements to sell ranges of personalized products for Mother’s Day and Easter are also in the works. Read more
A new era of identity verification
The country’s major supermarkets and wholesalers are currently trialing the Home Office’s digital age verification technology for alcohol purchases. The trial is part of the Home Office’s “regulatory sandbox”. This allows companies to explore new technologies, with funding from private companies, without being constrained by certain rules and regulations that might otherwise prohibit such exploration.
Using cameras and age estimation software provided by the Yoti ID app, digital verification technology can determine if customers are over 25. If they don’t, the customer will be asked to scan a government-approved ID to verify their age. . Customers who do not wish to participate in the trial will still be able to present their ID to a member of staff.
Asda shoppers in Pudsey and Stevenage can now use the technology at self-checkouts and Morrisons is set to carry out trials in three of its stores in Yorkshire. The hope is that the technology will streamline the shopping process for customers and retailers. Read more
CMA launches inquiry into Morrisons takeover
In issue 37 of RPC Bites, we reported on a series of acquisitions by US private equity funds, including the takeover of Morrisons, by Clayton Dubilier & Rice LLC (CDR). The CMA has now launched an investigation into whether the acquisition ‘will result in a substantial lessening of competition in a market or markets in the UK for goods or services’.
Experts are particularly concerned about whether the takeover would drive up fuel prices on UK oil forks. CDR acquired Motor Fuel Group in 2015 and as a result owns over 900 service stations in the UK, of which Morrisons operates around 335. The CMA passed a first enforcement notice in October 2021 ordering CDR to ensure that these operations remain separate until the potential impact on consumers has been properly considered.
The CMA is currently set to announce its Phase 1 decision on March 24, 2022, so stay tuned to RPC Bites for further updates. Read more