Yeast and desist: Pizza Hut forced to pull Vegemite pizza ads for “legal reasons”

Yeast and desist: Pizza Hut forced to pull Vegemite pizza ads for “legal reasons”

The offending Vegemite crust pizza

Pizza Hut Australia has been forced to remove advertising material for its latest promotion, after the parent company of Vegemite objected to the unauthorised use of the iconic spread’s name and logo in connection with Pizza Hut’s Mitey Stuffed Crust Pizza.

Launched to coincide with Australia Day, the Mitey Stuffed Crust Pizza features a Vegemite and cheese-filled pizza crust. The Vegemite brand was included in videos and other images as part of the launch but Mumbrella reports the advertising material has now been removed from the Pizza Hut website and social media accounts.

Images of the pizza are still visible on the Pizza Hut Australia Facebook page, although the images do not include the Vegemite name or logo.

The Vegemite name has been trademarked since 1923 and along with trademarks for several Vegemite logos, is currently owned by Mondelez International, the parent company of Vegemite owner Kraft.

Julia Marget, head of corporate and government affairs for foods, cheese and grocery in the Asia Pacific for Mondelez Australia, confirmed to SmartCompany Mondelez is “in discussion with Pizza Hut regarding the unauthorised use of the Vegemite brand in their marketing”.

“Vegemite is one of the most loved and trusted brands in Australia,” Marget said.

“As the custodian of the Vegemite brand, we go to great lengths to ensure that any brand association is carefully assessed prior to granting approval. Companies that associate themselves with or leverage off our brand without authorisation will be aggressively pursued.”

“We take the protection of our brands extremely seriously and will take all measures available to use to ensure that continued love and trust in the Vegemite brand that our consumers expect,” she said.

In a statement issued to SmartCompany, Pizza Hut Australia said it is “currently reviewing all imagery relating to the promotion of the Mitey Stuffed Crust Pizza” for “legal reasons”.

The company declined to elaborate on the “legal reasons” behind the review.

Jamie White, solicitor director at Pod Legal, told SmartCompany Australian businesses must have express permission to use another company’s name, logo or other imagery in advertising.

“Failure to do so might give rise to action under trademarks law, the Australian Consumer Law or under the common law tort of passing off,” White says.

White says in this case, the owner of the Vegemite trademarks may have grounds for action under the Australian Trademarks Act, but says their primary concern is more likely to be that “Pizza Hut is suggesting an affiliation with, approval or endorsement of, Vegemite and that is clearly not the case”.

“And this is central to an action under the deceptive trade practice provisions of the Australian Consumer Law and or under the tort of passing off, which assists to protect the reputation and goodwill of Australian brands,” he says.

White says the remedies available to Australian businesses that believe another business is using their intellectual property without permission include an injunction, which prevents the infringing conduct from continuing, or a court order for the infringing company to pay damages.

“However, perhaps an even greater consequence that a violating brand faces is the damage to its brand, and in some cases, that can irreparable,” White says.

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