‘Warning for “Copy-Cats” Traders (Vodkat appeal)’ by Stephen Welfare
The High Court had found against the manufacturers of Vodkat in February of this year for extended passing-off. Vodkat sounds like vodka, and is very similar to vodka, but it isn’t the same. Following the champagne cases, the court ruled that using confusing labelling and/or descriptions was unlawful.
The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court decision even though vodka lacked any reputation for superiority.
Extended passing-off arises where there is inappropriate use of any sufficiently descriptive or generic term for a particular class of goods. It protects the goodwill in the class of goods, whereas mere passing-off protects the reputation of a particular business.
The Court of Appeal decision is surely a decisive warning to copycat traders.