Tea tussle has been brewed on and dismissed by UKIPO
A dispute arisen between two tea companies has been brought to an end by the UK Intellectual Property Office after the opposition was dismissed.
The application which kickstarted this was filed by French tea company Mariage Frères in 2014 for ‘Sakura Sakura!’ in class 29 and 30 covering tea and spices.
This application was opposed by UK company TWG Tea Company, who argued that the word ‘Sakura’ lack distinctive character. The term refers to Japanese cherry tree and its blossom, which TWG claims is used as a descriptive term in the food industry.
Coupled with this, TWG claimed that Mariage was aware of TWG’s blossom tea, named as ‘Sakura’ and ‘Sakura Sakura’ in the UK.
Mark Bryant, acting on behalf of the UK Intellectual Property Office, considered the opposition.
Commenting on the two companies, he noted that they are in direct competition and have not had a good relationship in the past. They both have a UK presence and both sell in high end retailers, TWG in Harrods and Mariage in Selfridges.
Bryant agreed with TWG in that the term ‘Sakura’ should be kept free for use of other traders.
However, going against the opposition, he stated in his decision that the duplication of the word and the inclusion of the exclamation mark, created a ‘spark of distinctive character’.
Bryant dismissed the appeal, except to suggest that the class specification is amended to indicate that the goods under class 30 are all being made or flavoured with cherry blossom. Mariage was ruled to be ‘largely successful’ and therefore TWG was ordered to pay £2000 towards their costs.
By Ellis Sweetenham