Marianna Papadakis Reporter

Marianna writes for The Australian Financial Review and Business Review Weekly from the Sydney newsroom. She has an interest in legal affairs, technology and business.

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Snack stoush: Snack Foods Ltd loses court battle to block shipment of popcorn

Published 28 February 2013 11:06, Updated 01 March 2013 08:08

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Snack stoush: Snack Foods Ltd loses court battle to block shipment of popcorn

Whether the snack is popcorn, or Popped Corners, or Popcorners comes with more than a grain of salt for rivals Snack Foods Limited, Medora and Premier 1st, who are battling the difference out in court. Photo: iStock

The makers of Kettle chips, Samboy, CC’s and Cheezels, listed snack food group Snack Foods Limited, will take trademark actions with a grain of salt in future, after it failed an attempt to prevent a United States rival from bringing a new product to Australia.

Snack Foods lost an attempt to force US company Medora Snacks, to destroy its first shipment to Australia of a popcorn product and to prevent an Australian importer Premier 1st Pty Ltd from distributing it to big retailers.

Snack Foods plans to launch its own new popcorn snack in Australia in March called “Popped Corners”, for which it owns a trademark for the term.

It also holds a trademark for the term “Kettle”, which it uses for its renowned Kettle chips brand.

Medora Snacks has begun shipping in a new product called “Popcorners” which Snack Foods claimed breached its trademark.

While Medora could be liable for trademark infringement, the Federal Court refused to grant an injunction preventing it from bringing the product into Australia.

Salted, buttery flavoured popcorn is a must buy for cinema goers, while more dessert-focused options such as caramel popcorn remain favourites.

But new popcorn brands have been marketing towards the increased desire of families for healthier snacks and a belief the popcorn alternative is better for kids.

Companies like Cobs Popcorn have capitalised on this after launching their range in 2004.

The first shipment of Medora’s Popcorners arrived in November and the product was supplied to Coles and Woolworths through Premier 1st and another distributor Dainty Food Australia Pty Ltd.

Snack Foods claimed the US product would erode the distinctiveness of their own brand when it launched, and argued that if consumers didn’t like the foreign one it would detrimentally affect its own sales.

However Judge Lindsay Foster said Premier 1st and Medora had reasonable prospects of defending the infringement and having the trademark cancelled.

If the injunction was granted it would cause them significant loss, given the power of big grocery retailers in Australia.

“Incapacity to deliver to Woolworths, once an order had been placed, would almost certainly result in a decision by Woolworths to abandon the products altogether. That would have been catastrophic for Premier 1st,” he said.

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