Sanitarium settles with British Marmite man

Sanitarium will let a Christchurch man sell his nearly 2000-jar shipment of British Marmite, avoiding a trademark case due for court next week.

Last year, Rob Savage tried to beat the country's Marmite drought by importing jars of British Marmite, which were branded 'Ma'amite' to commemorate the Queen's Jubilee.

Sanitarium objected, saying importing the product breached its trademark on Marmite in New Zealand.

The case was due to be heard in the Christchurch High Court next Tuesday, but Sanitarium says it has reached a settlement with Mr Savage which will allow him to sell 1908 jars of British Marmite as a one-off.

The jars have been detained by Customs until now.

Sanitarium says the Ma'amite can only be sold through shops specialising in UK imported products, and the backs of the jars will be relabelled to cover up the word 'Marmite'.

Because it holds the trademark on Marmite in New Zealand, Sanitarium says only it can sell products bearing that name. 

British Marmite – made by Unilever – is sold legitimately in New Zealand shops, but under the name Our Mate.

Meanwhile, Sanitarium says Marmite will return to shops by March 20 after being out of production for about a year. 

callison@nbr.co.nz

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8 Comments & Questions

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What a shame. I was so looking forward to Sanitaribum getting a dose of retribution for the ludicrous farce they have created.
I plan to go out of my way and even pay a premium if needed for a jar of this Queen's Jubilee Commemoration of real and original Marmite and I sincerely hope the affixed sticker is safely removable and doesn't damage the collectible commemoration labels. The label issue also is just another joke as I am hardly likely to have any label, name or jar shape confuse me as to what I am buying.
I hope the days in storage care of NZ customs has not caused any product deterioration. Wouldn't put it past them to have stood it for months in the sun, going by the customs guys vandalising that poor woman's Weetabix shipment.
I saw some South African's (or was he an Aussie) lame attempt to hype up the return of local-made stuff on TV and found it utterly pathetic.

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I totally agree with remark above. If Sanatarium was listed on the NZX shareholders would deem such matters as a waste of management time and more importantly money. They should have been concentrating on getting their factory back up and running following the quake. and also respecting where they got the product and its name from originally.

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And going by the taste, Vegemite has a lot less sugar too! :)

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Hopefully someone can answer this for me. How can parallel importers (e.g., The Warehouse) bring in Sony, Apple, etc, products and sell them, yet this guy can't bring in Vegemite to sell?

I understand that there is a trademark for selling Vegemite in NZ but surely there is for Sony, Apple, etc, products in NZ yet The Warehouse still sells the parallel imported product.

Cheers.

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Ignorant comments #1 and2 above, who have no understanding of how trademark laws play out.

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Well, I would say it's more about respecting your customers and having them remain loyal to your brand.
Sanitarium's attitude over this has made us go for Our Mate and / or Vegemite because that heavy handedness has put us off their Marmite. On a matter of principle, I hope fellow Kiwis will feel the need to take the same action. If we all band together they might get a "don't treat us like that" message. We Like Vegemite :)

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I could understand if they were currently producing the stuff, but the only reason the guy imported it was due to the fact there was no other Marmite available.

Exceptions can be made, a simple legal letter to the man saying he could sell this replacement product until X date, would have sufficed.

Much cheaper than court action, more friendly and tides people over until their factory is up and running.

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I don't know if you guys are aware but the product has always been available from what I've read the product labelled "Our Mate" is actually the same product he was importing. This definitely looks like a branding issue as Sanitarium own the Marmite naming right secured from the original British manufacturer now own by Unilever.

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