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Dick Smith’s Ozemite faces fight

Entrepeneur Dick Smith’s Vegemite alternative, OzEmite, faces a legal battle over its brand which could see it disappear from supermarket shelves.

The original Vegemite has been owned by US food giant Kraft for many years, and Dick Smith launched his Australian-owned OzEmite as a local competitor, partly to give Australian consumers an option of buying a locally owned and made product, as well as to support local manufacturers. Dick Smith Foods has sold around 500,000 jars of OzEmite since hitting the shelves in June last year, according to Fairfax Media, with all profits being donated to charity. The newspaper reports that more than $150,000 has been given away since its launch.

But that could all end if the company loses a court battle. The makers of another Vegemite substitute, Aussie Mite, want to have the OzEmite brand struck of the register at a hearing in Canberra today. Should Aussie Mite win, that could see Dick Smith Foods sued for trademark infringement if it continues to use the brand.

Fairfax reports that Mr Smith registered the OzEmite trademark in October 1999, 18 months before South Australian businessman Roger Ramsey and his daughter Elise registered Aussie Mite in May 2001. But Aussie Mite has been on the market since 2000, more than 10 years before OzEmite hit the shelves. Elise Ramsey says the confusion between the two brands was destroying her family’s business.

But Mr Smith is refusing to fight, because he doesn’t want to spend one cent on lawyers. He told Fairfax Media that they weren’t even going to appear, suggesting the claim was ridiculous. Losing the trademark would be a catastrophe fur us and Dick Smith Foods says Mr Smith, but noted the product could be re-launched under another name.

Foolish takeaway

Dick Smith also registered the name Dinky Di-Nemite in October 2011, so consumers may well see OzEmite re-branded under that name should Mr Smith lose.

 

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Motley Fool writer/analyst Mike King doesn’t own shares in any companies mentioned. You can follow Mike on Twitter @TMFKinga

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