Penguins v Puffins in copycat court row

Another row has erupted over copycat branding, this time between McVitie’s and supermarket chain Asda over its own-label Puffin chocolate biscuits.

United Biscuits subsidiary McVitie’s is arguing that the Puffin biscuits, in packaging designed for Asda by Ian Logan Design, are too similar to its Penguin biscuit brand. A McVitie’s spokeswoman said Asda had “stepped over the line” and that customers would be “confused into mistaking a Puffin bar for a product made by McVitie’s. We have no option but to defend our brand vigorously”.

The dispute coincides with a survey’s findings that more than 75 per cent of companies believe the law does not adequately protect their brands. More than a third of those surveyed by solicitor Eversheds feel lookalikes are a threat to their business.

Isabel Davies, head of intellectual property at Eversheds, comments: “Designers may have a moral decision to make if they are asked to do something that is confusing to consumers.” Davies says that since the launch of the Institute of Grocery Distribution’s code of conduct last year it is rare for copycat disputes to reach court. But although McVitie’s is an IGD member, Asda is not.

McVitie’s has asked Asda to replace the Puffin brand with something that is not a seabird. But an Asda spokesman says: “The two brands are very different and we have no intention of taking it off the shelves.”

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