Sanitarium wins legal spat against Christchurch food importer

Food company Sanitarium has won its trademark dispute against a Christchurch food importer selling a product similar in name to Weet-Bix.  

The decision was released by the Christchurch High Court on Tuesday, and comes after Sanitarium took Christchurch store A Little Bit of Britain to court over its British version of Weet-Bix, Weetabix.

Justice Gendall granted a permanent injunction, restricting the sale of the British product in New Zealand. It can only be sold in specialist UK stores, and the word Weetabix must be covered - to protect the Weet-Bix brand.

A Little Bit of Britain, a store in Canterbury's Riccarton, Kaiapoi and also online, tried to import boxes of the British cereal from the UK in August last year. 

Sanitarium argued the product was too similar to its own cereal brand and had the shipment of 360 Weetabix boxes stopped at the border, after claims the British cereal's name infringed its trademark. 

The product hasn't been on the shop's shelves for over a year.

One hundred and eight cartons of Weetabix detained at the border, imported by A Little Bit of Britain are goods similar to the Weet-Bix trademark and is likely to deceive or confuse consumers.

Justice Gendall said A Little Bit of Britain did not intentionally deceive the public, but the brand Weetabix could confuse consumers.

A survey issued by the court found 35 percent of people mistook Weetabix as a Sanitarium brand, presumably Weet-Bix.

Justice Gendall ruled Weetabix products were imported for uses other than private or domestic use and must be destroyed.

A Little Bit of Britain shop owner Lisa Wilson told Newshub she is a "little bit disappointed" with the decision.

"I guess, we're still allowed to sell it, that's a good point, we have to cover it up, I guess that's the bad point for us, the customers will still be happy they will still get it," Ms Wilson told Newshub.

The business still plans to import the product to supply to customers. Ms Wilson is yet to decide if she will appeal the decision. 

A Sanitarium spokesperson says the company is pleased with the outcome.

"The main issue has always been to protect our iconic Weet-Bix brand and Trade Mark. This judgement enables us to protect our brand which supports the employment of Kiwis and contributes to the New Zealand community," the spokesperson told Newshub.