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Small honey producer takes on Food Lover's Market in trademark battle

3 March 2021 7:37 PM
Tags:
The Money Show
Bruce Whitfield
trademark
Food Lover's Market
honey
Nature's Gold Honey
Debbie Power
Nature's Gold
Food Lover's Holdings
Nigel Meintjies
FLM

'Nature's Gold' was trademarked by the KZN startup. FLM should have checked properly, admits its legal director on The Money Show.

Small honey producers Debbie and Andrew Power launched their startup seven years ago in Pietermaritzburg.

They named their product Nature's Gold and Andrew trademarked it in 2011.

But this sweet idea turned sour when Food Lover's Market (FLM) launched its own in-house honey range also called Nature’s Gold, but in different packaging.

Nature's Gold Honey on Facebook @NaturesGoldHoney

Andrew died at the end of 2018 and it was in 2019 that Debbie first spotted an advert for the FLM product.

I contacted Food Lover's Market personally, initially, and told them that I had the trademark and the name was obviously very special to me.

Debbie Power, Nature's Gold Honey

FLM refused to stop using the name says Power and she sought legal advice which confirmed the retailer's use of the Nature's Gold trademark was unauthorised.

What's followed is a trademark war with the food retail group.

The Money Show gets both Power and FLM's legal director on air.

Power confirms that they've been trading under the name since 2011, but have not been supplying big chain stores.

We have traded 90% in KwaZulu-Natal and the KZN Midlands area.

Debbie Power, Nature's Gold Honey

We have always been more of a bespoke-type honey, selling direct to people and smaller home industries, coffee shops, butcheries... that kind of market.

Debbie Power, Nature's Gold Honey

Nigel Meintjies, legal director for FLM, says it's important to put things into perspective.

When the retailer first developed its Nature's Gold product in 2018, he explains, it had no idea that particular trademark existed.

Legal adviser Mirella Gastaldi was approached by the product developers and it was found there was no match anywhere on Google, Meintjies relates.

Nobody can own those two names 'nature' and 'gold'. She said, don't bother registering it, let's use it.

Nigel Meintjies, Legal director - Food Lover's Market

Did FLM not check that Nature's Gold was trademarked then?

We develop many products and when you are dealing with words that are purely descriptive... Maybe in hindsight we could have [checked] and we should have.

Nigel Meintjies, Legal director - Food Lover's Market

A year and a half later a lawyer's letter was received saying Power owned the trademark and FLM should stop using it, he says.

To have trademark protection you've not only got to have it registered, you've got to use it!... You've got to prove that you've used it extensively!

Nigel Meintjies, Legal director - Food Lover's Market

Power was then asked to provide "proof of use".

So what is the upshot of this David and Goliath battle?

Meintjies said a letter was in fact sent to Power's representatives today - Wednesday - in an effort to make contact and negotiate around the trademark.

The assumption of corporate bully is totally unfair and unjust.

Nigel Meintjies, Legal director - Food Lover's Market

We are willing to negotiate the purchase of the trademark. If the price is too high we'll change our brand!

Nigel Meintjies, Legal director - Food Lover's Market

Listen to the separate interviews with the two parties in the audio clips below:




3 March 2021 7:37 PM
Tags:
The Money Show
Bruce Whitfield
trademark
Food Lover's Market
honey
Nature's Gold Honey
Debbie Power
Nature's Gold
Food Lover's Holdings
Nigel Meintjies
FLM

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