Finnish Dairy Producer Valio Wins Trade Dress Lawsuit Against Russian Competitor

Dec 30 2015 - 11:43

In October 2014, Valio LLC, Russian subsidiary of Finnish leading dairy maker Valio Oy, initiated an unfair competition proceeding against its Russian competitor Traditsia LLC (Russian: Tradition) on the ground that the defendant’s butter design constituted an infringement of the plaintiff’s trade dress.

It should be noted that there is no legal definition of trade dress in Russian law. However, the trademark law and the unfair competition law provide legal basis for protection against copycat packaging or trade dress infringement. A new version of the unfair competition law, which mentions trade dress, will enter into force in January 2016.

The St. Petersburg branch of Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) received a complaint from Valio LLC saying that the Russian dairy producer designed its packaging for butter “Baba Valya” (Russian: Grandmother Valya) as a copy of the Finnish company’s butter Valio (left).

Traditsia LLC launched “Baba Valya” packaging (left) in October 2014. Almost a year later, in August 2015, Traditsia LLC filed an application, No. 2015725932, to register the trademark.

Since consumers typically focus on the most striking trade dress elements, particularly colors and graphics, Valio’s representatives argued that the two similar butter designs would cause consumer confusion. The results of a comparative analysis revealed that the colors and the compositional arrangements are almost identical. The St. Petersburg FAS branch conducted an opinion poll through their website and 58 percent of consumers confirmed a high level of similarity between the two packages.

“We have repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that butter ‘Baba Valya’ has nothing to do with the Valio product, but we continue to receive complaints from people that mistakenly purchased the product whose wrapper resembles the packaging of the legendary butter Valio. But the high quality of the product cannot be obtained just by copying the design,” it was stated in Valio’s press release.

The Russian competition regulator’s decision against Traditsia LLC was issued on December 2, 2015, on the grounds of Article 14, part 1 of the Law on Protection of Competition. This provision prohibits unfair competition acts, including the use of marks similar to registered trademarks and misleading consumers as to the origin of goods. The decision may be appealed.

Prepared by: Alla Prikhodko

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