Moccona Launches Court Battle With Vittoria Over Glass Jar Similiarities

Moccona Launches Court Battle With Vittoria Over Glass Jar Similiarities

Jacobs Douwe Egberts (JDE), the company behind the Moccona instant coffee brand has launched a court battle claiming that Aussie independent coffee brand Vittoria has ripped off its “iconic” glass container.

The suit was filed in February and claimed that Vittoria is engaged in misleading and deceptive practices by using its glass jar and that customers might mistake Vittoria for a Moccona product.

“Consumers use the glass jar as a ‘shortcut’ visual cue to identify the premium product contained within it, so they can be confident that the product they are buying is a premium, high-quality Moccona product,” JDE head of category development and shopper insights Ross Tillman stated in court documents obtained by The Sydney Morning Herald.

JDE, which is valued at $22 billion, said that the jar was of “utmost commercial importance” to the Moccona and the wider company. It even referred to it internally as one of the business’ “crown jewels.”

“By advertising, promoting, offering for sale and selling infringing products in a shape resembling [Moccona’s glass jar], [Vittoria] is likely to mislead a number of ordinary and reasonable consumers of coffee in Australia into the erroneous belief that the infringing products emanate from [JDE] or are otherwise connected, associated or affiliated with [JDE] and their premium coffee products,” said court documents.

JDE has sold the Moccona brand of instant coffee in the glass jar in Australia since 1960. Vittoria Coffee was founded in 1947 and began selling instant coffee in supermarkets during the pandemic in around May 2021.

Vittoria’s chief exec, Les Schirato said that JDE was concerned about losing market share and launched the court action because it was concerned about losing market share rather than trying to protect Moccona’s branding.

“We don’t need, nor would we attempt, to trade off Moccona’s reputation because, in effect, our reputation is so strong,” Schirato said.

“The actual jars, if you look at them, are covered by the brand – what features prominently is our brand. Jars are jars.

“You don’t get Moccona being served in cafes and restaurants and five-star hotels. So for me, the issue of passing off or trying to attempt to pass off on their reputation is not something we would ever want,” he added.

While JDE is worth billions, Vittoria turns over around $290 million per year. It will cross-claim that the trademark for Moccona’s jar is invalid and should be cancelled as it is no different to any other jar. It also said that JDE has not even used the trademarked design.

“The KDE Shape Mark is a functional design [being a container] and is not to any extent inherently adapted to distinguish the designated goods or services from the goods or services of other persons,” it said in Vittoria’s statement of claim.

“Any use of a container or a jar was not use[d] as a trademark, but rather use[d] as a functional container, and thereby does not distinguish the designated goods or services as being those of KDE.”

However, JDE’s Tillman said that the similarities between the Vittoria 400-gram jar are caused the problem whereas the company’s 100- and 200-gram jars did not affect the brand.

“I have also observed a disproportionately higher number of consumers ‘switching’ to the Vittoria 400-gram product from the equivalent Moccona 400-gram glass jar product than any other 400-gram instant coffee products [including, for example, the equivalent Nescafe branded product],” he stated in the affidavit.

“In my opinion, this difference is likely to be attributable to the Vittoria 400-gram product being sold in the form of a glass jar with a flat-topped stopper lid … which consumers understand to be a trade indicia for Moccona’s premium, high-quality product.

“The fact that Cantarella launched its Vittoria 100-gram and 400-gram products in different jars suggests to me that Cantarella may be testing the market for different jar shapes to see which jar shape sells better,” he added.

Moccona said that if Vittoria continues to expand its distribution and sale of the coffee, it would further harm JDE’s reputation, goodwill, market share, and supermarket shelf space and force JDE to change its marketing.

“Even if JDE is ultimately successful at trial and the court were to grant an order preventing Cantarella from selling its Vittoria 400 gram, in my view, any damages awarded for Cantarella’s past sales would not adequately compensate JDE for its loss of reputation and exclusivity in its glass jar,” Tillman stated in the affidavit.

The matter is listed to be heard on February 20, 2024, for an estimated nine days.

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