Russia: Aged girl engages in unfair competition
The St Petersburg department of the Antimonopoly Body issued a decision in December 2015 in a dispute between two economic entities selling homogeneous goods – butter.
The case was initiated by VALIO Ltd. which complained to the Antimonopoly Body about unfair activities of its competitor, which was selling butter under the designation Баба Валя (Granny Valia). Valia is a short Russian name for Valentine. The word баба (Granny) is modestly printed in small font and placed vertically to the left of the name Valia. The elements of the butter packaging were in the opinion of the complainant confusingly similar with the design of his butter Valio containing a figurative designation with the word element Valio and a picture of a girl smiling with a jar in her hands against a white background. The producer of the butter is the Finnish company Valio Oy; the butter is distributed by the Russian importer Valio Ltd.
The expert who evaluated both packages noted the high similarity between both products in their general view. He noted that both products produced a similar impression, both had similar disposition of their elements and similar use of colour of the elements of the packages.
Valio Ltd, the complainant, argued that the competitor placed elements similar to the design of its goods with the purpose of stimulating demand for his product using the popularity of the original butter Valio. The complainant also stated that this was an obvious act of unfair competition.
The Antimonopoly Body examined the figurative elements of both packages and found that the pictures of the young girl and of the grandmother in the compared packages are located in the right central part of both packages and the combination of colours is also similar. The blue colour of the dress of the grandmother is the same as the blue colour of the dress of the girl. The white collar of the dress of the grandmother repeats the white colour of the sleeves and collar of the girl's dress though the design of the girl's dress is less conservative. The blond hair of the girl tallies with the yellow colour of the butter held by the grandmother (it would be strange to have the grandmother with blond hair). There are some differences in the pictures however the general idea and colour combination of both packages are quite similar.
The Antimonopoly Body is competent itself to issue judgments, however in this case, to give more credence to its decision, it launched a public poll on the internet. The public readily responded: of almost 24,000 people, 58% voted in favour of the similarity of the packages.
Considering the obvious association between the pictures, the similarity of shapes and colours, the combination of separate elements of the packages (even though there are several insignificant differences) the Antimonopoly Body inferred that the impression is created among the consumers that the producer of Granny Valia butter is the same that that of Valio butter.
As a result, the Antimonopoly Body recognised that there was infringement as provided by Article 14 of the unfair competition law ("misleading in respect of character, method and place of manufacture, consumer properties, quality and quantity of the goods or in respect of its manufacturers"). The Antimonopoly Body however fell short of issuing a directive to stop infringement because the infringer was apprehensive of possible unfavourable consequences.