Accessibility Links

Greek tragedy turns into farce in High Court

Posted by: Laurence Simons 04/04/13

Some hitherto unaired opinions on Greek yoghurt have been raised at the supreme court, after Mr Justice Briggs presided over a major intellectual property battle between the makers of Total Greek Yoghurt, Fage UK, and New York-based company Chobani.

Winston & Strawn partner Richard Price argued that yoghurt could only be accurately described as being Greek if it had been made in Greece by a straining method, rendering the yoghurt thick and creamy with no artificial additives - thus leaving Chobani's product in need of rebranding, at least in the UK market.

Sadly, Fage's efforts to ensure that the only Greek yoghurt drizzled over the food of British gourmands is bona fide are not purely driven by a spirit of intellectual honesty, but at least somewhat inspired by the company's impressive monopoly over the lucrative dairy-products-thicker-than-milk-but-less-thick-than-cheese market, reports the Lawyer.

Until 2012 the firm's Total Greek Yoghurt accounted for more than 95 per cent by value of all yoghurt sold in the UK as Greek yoghurt. (In other fact news, that sentence used the word 'yoghurt' more than any other sentence you'll read today.)

Chobani launched a product intended to compete with Fage last year, but the former was granted an injunction against its rival in December.

In the judgement, passed down last week, Justice Briggs accepted Fage's claims. According to him "the very small print used on the rear of Chobani's pots to indicate its American place of manufacture is nowhere near sufficient to disabuse that substantial part of the Greek yoghurt buying public likely to think that its description on the front and top of the pot as Greek yoghurt means that it comes from Greece".

Finally, the Greek yoghurt buying public can sleep peacefully in their beds. Private practice lawyers have dealt with similarly inane IP cases in the past - Lindt, for instance, goes to great lengths to protect its mamallian Easter confectionery from any imitators.