17 Oct 2012

Marmite dispute spreads to High Court

3:45 pm on 17 October 2012

A battle over a shipment of British marmite in Christchurch has escalated to the High Court.

Customs seized a pallet-load of the spread in August after Sanitarium blocked the shipment on the grounds that the product infringed its trademark.

Importer Rob Savage says he offered to change the labels on the jars but instead received a legal document dictating which labels would be acceptable and including a directive not to talk to the media.

Having refused to accept those conditions, he says, he found out about the High Court papers when he went to collect the shipment on Wednesday morning.

He says he will fight the matter in the court, but if Sanitarium wins, the marmite will be taken to a landfill and crushed.

Sanitarium's general manager, Pierre Van Heerden, says the company has not tried to gag Mr Savage and is still prepared to negotiate trademark conditions with him, but the parties had agreed what they would say to the media about relabelling the jars.

Sanitarium, whose Christchurch factory was damaged in the earthquakes, still cannot confirm when New Zealand marmite will be back in production