Passed Off Pasta?

barilla pasta

Barilla is an Italian pasta brand that is on sale in Israel.

Oddly enough, pasta is made of durum wheat (Triticum durum or Triticum turgidum subsp. durum), which is a tetraploid species of wheat which is hard to mill due to the starchy endosperm. Dough made from its flour is weak or “soft”. This makes durum favorable for couscous (semolina) and pasta, and less practical for flour. It is actually grown in Israel and exported to Italy!

Rami Levy

Rami Levy (Shivuk HaShikma) is an Israel chain of supermarkets that, as well as selling commercial brands, negotiates with manufacturers and packages its own-brand labels which are usually cheaper.

 

Recently, Rami Levy started stocking its own-label dried pasta.

Rami Levy pasta

As you can see, Rami Levy’s pasta, like Barilla, uses a blue box, albeit a slightly different shade, and has the type of pasta contained viewable through a cellophane window. The type of pasta (penne, spaghetti, cannelloni, etc.) is written in white, although on Barilla’s product, the name is in English letters and on Rami Levy’s own brand, it is in Hebrew. Rami Levy Shivuk Hashikma is written across the top and on the side of the box. The name of the brand, written in yellow, seems to be a face with a hat on and wide mouth, but is actually a stylized O followed by lla in italics giving Olla. However, Barilla also ends with an lla.

Barilla sued Rami Levy in the Tel Aviv District Court for a million shekels (about $300,000 US, 250,000 Euros) and obtained an injunction ordering Rami Levy to take their own-brand pasta and sauces off the shelves. Rami Levy filed a counter-suit and the cases are pending.

Rami Levy claims that Barilla waited for over 14 months since Rami Levy introduced their own-label and so the case should be thrown out. He claims that his competition is fair and Barilla should respond by advertising, discounts and special offers. He dismisses allegations of passing off, and argues that there is an overwhelming weight of precedent from the District and Supreme Court that indicates that the similarity is not excessive and that the case is baseless. The name Rami Levy, the Italian series is clearly written in white on blue in large letters.

Barilla has a trademark on their brand name and not on the design of the package or on the blue colour. Rami Levy accuses Barilla of ignoring their own branding and trying to monopolize the blue colour. However the case-law does not support claims of passing off where packages are similar but the trade name is clearly written and there is no likelihood of confusion in such cases. The courts do not recognize rights in a packaging colour. Rami Levy further claims that with over half a billion shekels in sales of “the private brand” in 2017, his sales outstrip those of Barilla. His prices are much lower and this also distinguishes them, and there are a number of accumulative differences.

COMMENT

taaman 1taaman 2

We note that Taaman (pun on taam which means both taste and reason) is an Israeli importer and distributer of staples such as flour, pasta, chocolate, etc. that also has a red logo with white text in an oval. Their name, in Hebrew, is written in a backwards leaning italic font, however as Hebrew is written from right to left, the sloping is the same as that of Barilla. Their pasta is packaged in blue cellophane with a window showing the content. Thus Barilla’s packaging is perhaps less unique than they claim, although Taaman uses cellophane bags and not boxes.

In a recent decision the Deputy Commissioner refused to register a black box with silver trim as a trademark. Back in 2014, Judge Ginat refused to recognize a trade-dress in blue energy drink cans. Judge Binyamini threw out a claim that one ice-cream manufacturer was entitled to a monopoly on gold ice-cream tubs. Then again, Abu Shukra were unable to register their application for a trademark for a coffee package that is similar to Elite’s Turkish coffee.

 

 

 

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