Bulgarian Dairy Producer and Distributor Fined for Unfair Competition
Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) has recently fined two Bulgarian companies, a dairy producer and a dairy distributor, for unfair competition.
The Bulgarian dairy producer Elvi, which has been producing yoghurt under the trademark of Bojentzi since 2005, initiated the proceedings.
Elvi applied for the Bojentzi trademark registration before the Bulgarian PTO in 2005, but was not granted the registration until March 2012. Namely, in June 2007, the Bulgarian PTO refused the registration of the mark on absolute grounds as the mark contained the name of the architectural and historical reserve Bojentzi, central northern Bulgaria. After several legal proceedings, the Ministry of Culture allowed Elvi to use the name Bojentzi, and Elvi and the Bulgarian PTO finally settled the case in March 2012.
In the meantime, a local dairy distributor Germa-95, which was distributing Elvi’s products in the period 2008 – 2011, applied for the Bojentzi trademark registration in 2009 before both the Bulgarian PTO and the Ministry of Culture. The Bulgarian PTO refused Germa-95’s trademark application, but in 2011 the Ministry of Culture allowed the dairy distributor to register Bojentzi as a trademark.
In September 2011, in collaboration with another dairy producer Czech-99, Germa-95 started distributing dairy products Bojentzi (right), which resembled the trademark and the overall appearance of the yoghurt Bojentzi produced by Elvi (left).
Moreover, once Germa-95 received BPO’s refusal for the registration of the trademark, the company sent letters to various Elvi’s clients advising them to stop selling Elvi’s yoghurt Bojentzi. Germa-95’s actions led to the termination of several agreements Elvi had made with the local distributors.
The CPC ruled in favor of Elvi noting that the similarity between Elvi and Germa-95’s products was sufficient to mislead consumers and undermine the brand’s distinctiveness. Consequently, the CPC ordered that Germa-95 immediately stop using the confusingly similar trademark and imposed a EUR 250,000 (USD 320,000) fine on Germa-95 and a EUR 50,000 (USD 64,000) fine on Czech-99.
The owner of Germa-95 claims that his company has filed a cancellation request against Elvi’s mark. Germa-95 is also trying to register the yoghurt package as an industrial design and Elvi is opposing this registration before the Bulgarian PTO.
Author: Petia Petrova
For more information, please contact Petia Petrova at our Bulgaria office.
Source: Capital, a Bulgarian weekly newspaper
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