Finnish Market Court Rules on Slavish Imitation and Appropriation of Goodwill 

In its decision of 18 November 2014 (MAO:809/14), the Finnish Market Court rejected Valio Oyj’s application to prohibit Bunge Finland Oy from using words like “KEIJURIINI” or any words that include the suffix “RIINI” in their marketing. Valio Oyj claimed that by using the trademark KEIJURIINI and the suffix “RIINI” in the marketing of a butter-vegetable oil spread, Bunge Finland Oy would conduct unfair marketing by slavish imitation and unfair goodwill exploitation of Valio Oyj’s well-known trademarks OIVARIINI and VOIMARIINI. The Market Court found that with also several other products using the suffix “RIINI” in the market, the average consumer identifies the suffix “RIINI” with butter-vegetable oil spreads and their ease of use in general. Further, the Court found that since Bunge Finland Oy’s marketing has followed the style of earlier marketing for the KEIJU product family, it has been clearly distinguishable from Valio Oyj’s marketing. Consequently, Valio Oyj’s application was rejected. In an earlier Supreme Court decision of 19 February 2010 (KKO:2010:12), the Court dismissed Valio Oyj’s claims of trademark infringement against Arla Oy for using the trademark INGMARIINI in the marketing of a butter-vegetable oil spread. However, the Supreme Administrative Court later refused Arla Oy the registration of the trademark INGMARIINI in its conflicting decision of 8 July 2011 (KHO:2011:1996). The latter decision did not, however, prevent Arla Oy from using the unregistered trademark, and Arla Oy has re-filed for the registration for same and similar marks. These applications are still pending.

New Rules and Recommendations for the Promotion of Alcohol in Sweden and Finland

The Swedish Consumer Agency has updated its general recommendations for the promotion of alcohol which apply to all marketing primarily targeted at the Swedish market. The recommendations will take effect as from 1 March and specify the requirements for particular moderation that shall be observed in all promotion of alcoholic beverages. Among other things, the general recommendations now include a specific section on online marketing, including social media and apps. The general requirement is that alcoholic beverages shall only be promoted to consumers above the age of 25, meaning that at least 75 % of the recipients of the marketing shall be above this age. This applies also to online marketing, which means that websites including promotion of alcoholic beverages shall be constructed to mainly appeal to people above this age. If the main purpose of the webpage is the sales or promotion of alcoholic beverages, appropriate technical measures should be in place to confirm the visitors’ ages. No pop-up ads are allowed. In Finland, new marketing rules for mild alcoholic beverages took effect on 1 January 2015 pursuant to the amendment (152/2014) of the Alcohol Act. The marketing of mild alcoholic drinks (less than 22 % of alcohol) is not allowed anymore in public places such as streets and shopping centers, on TV before 22:00, nor alongside lotteries or the like. As an important exception, marketing is allowed in public events such as festivals and sporting events and on international passenger ships. Displaying alcohol brands in licensed shops, bars and restaurants is still allowed as well. The National Supervisory Authority for Welfare and Health, Valvira, has published new guidelines for the proper marketing conduct of alcohol. The new Swedish rules can be seen as problematic considering the EU law principles of proportionality, protection of property and free circulation of goods. The issue was addressed by the Swedish Market Court in its Jägermeister decision (MD 2014:4), where the Court held that brands cannot be prohibited from being on display on delivery trucks. In Finland there is no case law yet from the Market Court or Supreme Court interpreting the relevant Section 33 of the Alcohol Act. 

Finnish Food Safety Publication System Oiva Expands

The Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira’s food safety publication system Oiva, which has previously covered grocery stores, restaurants and industrial kitchens, has been expanded to cover additional 7,600 food industry companies this year. For instance confectionary factories, bakeries and facilities processing meat, fish or eggs are now included in the system.  The overall level of hygiene, food temperatures, and package markings are some of the issues being reviewed during the inspections. All inspection reports are published in order to make the inspections more effective.  

New EU Regulation on PAH Levels in Smoked Meat and Fish 

The European Commission has adopted a new Regulation (No 1327/2014) on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in food. The new Regulation amends Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006, which sets the maximum levels of contaminants in foodstuffs. The amendment grants several member states, including Finland and Sweden, the possibility of authorizing traditionally smoked fish and meat products on their market even if the PAH levels in such products would be higher than the maximum levels allowed in the Regulation. The Regulation requires that the products are intended for the national market, and that the member states monitor the PAH levels and implement good smoking practices where possible. The Commission will re-assess the situation by fall 2017. 

New Requirements for Using Well-Known Voluntary Label for Healthy Food in Sweden 

The Swedish National Food Agency has introduced new rules for the well-known “Nyckelhål” (keyhole) foods label, effective as of 1 March 2015. The new rules entail stricter requirements in order to make “Nyckelhål” labeled foods even healthier. For example, the maximum salt content is reduced in many food groups, including ready-made meals, bread and margarine. Requirements on maximum salt content are also introduced for meat and fish. The new rules also allow new food groups to be “Nyckelhål” labeled, such as unsalted nuts and peanuts, whole grain rice and ready-made meals, which are not full meals. The old rules will be applied in parallel with the new rules until 1 September 2016, but certain products have a transitional period of up to four years before the new rules fully apply.