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Weetabix wins trade name order against Kenya’s Multibix

Multibix and Weetabix on a supermarket shelf on March 1, 2015. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU
Multibix and Weetabix on a supermarket shelf on March 1, 2015. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU 

The High Court has ordered consumer goods manufacturer Manji Food Industries to stop selling and withdraw from shops its breakfast cereal-Multibix—until a trade name dispute with UK firm Weetabix is heard and determined.

Justice Eric Ogola on Friday ordered Manji to stop the sale of its Multibix brand following a suit filed by Weetabix seeking to stop the Kenyan manufacturer from using the “bix” suffix on any of its products.

Weetabix had asked the court to temporarily stop Manji from selling its product, arguing that failure to do so would expose the UK firm to continuous financial loss.

“I have upheld the application filed by Weetabix and I hereby issue a temporary injunction restraining Manji from selling, distributing the product Multibix or any product containing the suffix bix pending the hearing and determination of this suit,” the judge said.

Justice Ogola agreed with Weetabix’s claim that failure to issue the orders may expose it to massive loss.

The UK firm argues that Manji’s product is an imitation of its product and that it has hoodwinked some of its clientele into buying the Kenyan product instead.

The firm has said in suit papers that it sells eight products with the ‘bix’ suffix in several countries around the world.

Weetabix holds that the suffix is an important component of its various trademarks around the world, and claims Manji’s use of the ‘bix’ in its product is an infringement of its trademark rights.

Manji had denied Weetabix’s allegations, arguing that the Multibix product is not intended to confuse the UK firm’s clientele and that it is an independent brand with its own following.

The judge has further ordered Manji to recall any of its Multibix products that are still on supermarket shelves until he gives a final decision on the dispute.

Weetabix had told the court that the dispute dates back to 2012 when Manji failed in an attempt to register Multibix as a trademark.

The registration failed after the UK cereals maker opposed an application at the registrar of trademarks.

Manji will now have to furnish the court with a list of all names and addresses of Multibix sellers since 2012 when the firm failed to register the name as a trademark.

“Manji is ordered to disclose all the names and addresses of all those who have supplied cereals or wheat products containing the suffix ‘bix’ since 2012,” the judge added.

The Kenyan firm claims it lodged an appeal at the trademarks registrar in August 2012 which is yet to be determined. Weetabix, however, denies knowledge of the appeal.

Weetabix has also asked the judge to award it damages for the loss of business it has suffered because of Manji’s alleged breach of its trademark rights.

It claims Manji has ignored its demands for a cease-and-desist of the suffix use even after being served with a notice of intention to sue.

Manji is the second Kenyan firm fighting it out with an international corporation over a trade name, with another dispute between Westgate Mall’s Sony Holdings and Japan’s electronics manufacturer Sony Corporation.

The dispute between Weetabix and Manji will now proceed to full hearing after Justice Ogola dismissed the Kenyan manufacturer’s claim that the High Court has no authority to hear the matter.

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