BY PROBLEM MASAU
STRUGGLING bread maker, Lobels has threatened to sue local competitor, Natbake, over use of blue and red colour packaging which it claims is associated with its premium white bread.
Lobels lawyers, Mawere Sibanda Commercial Lawyers, wrote to Natbake on July 4 demanding that the latter changes its packaging colours or face legal action.
In the letter, Lobels’ lawyers claimed the “identical” packaging was causing confusion on the market.
“Your aforesaid use of a trade dress identical to, or at least similar to our client’s trade mark in respect to identical services is calculated to induce the relevant either to mistake or confuse your services for our client’s services or to unfairly take advantage of the goodwill and reputation our client has established in the Lobels goods and services,” the lawyers wrote.
“Your imitation of Lobels’ red and blue trade dress is a fraudulent ploy to deceive an average consumer of Lobels products into mistaking your goods as our client’s, which consequently affects our client’s reputation and goodwill.
“We have, therefore, been instructed by our client to demand, as we hereby do, that you immediately cease all use of the Lobels mark, deliver up for destruction all infringing products including packaging and trade documentation bearing the offending mark and trade dress and furnish our client with a written undertaking that you will refrain, in future, from using a trade dress or mark similar to our client’s in Zimbabwe.”
The lawyers further indicated that should Natbake fail to comply with the demand Lobels would sue them at the High Court.
Natbake, which is now Zimbabwe’s fourth largest bread maker after Bakers Inn, Lobels and Proton, is yet to respond to the correspondence.
The lawsuit threat comes as reports say Lobels is facing viability challenges and struggling to pay its employees.
An official from Lobels bread acknowledged that the company was facing viability challenges.
“The company is really struggling with its finances and as we speak, workers are agitated by delays in salary payments and other issues. Sales volumes have declined and the thinking is that Natbake is eating into our market, but not many are convinced with that narrative,” a senior executive at Lobels told NewsDay.
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