Cheesy smiles as start-up beats Kraft

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The Independent Online

A husband and wife start-up has won a bruising two-year battle against the US food giant Kraft.

The company, Phoenix-Britz, was set up by a former Golden Wonder export manager Jennie Kelly and her partner Phil three years ago. The idea of the business, which is run from their home in the Midlands, was to produce snack foods such as crisps for the export market under the brand name Britz.

Ms Kelly applied to registrar the Britz trademark in August 2003, but shortly afterwards was contacted by lawyers on behalf of Kraft, the owner of Ritz crackers. Ms Kelly said the letter confirmed that Kraft opposed their trademark and warned that it would seek an injunction if the company continued to attempt to registrar the trademark.

During the next two years, Kraft put forward various explanations for its concerns, including using a phonetics professor to demonstrate how similar Britz and Ritz sounded.

But Ms Kelly confirmed that Kraft's opposition had been dismissed by the Patent Office, meaning it was now possible to registrar the use of the trademark; she said that the company had also been awarded partial costs of £2,200.

Phoenix-Britz has been trading during the dispute. "We're very relieved that it's all over, and we're relieved that we won," said Ms Kelly. "It's all very much on a knife edge at the moment. But every penny of profit has gone to pay for our legal fees."

Ms Kelly also confirmed that she and her partner could consider selling the business.

"It may be that we now need someone else larger than us to take the business forward," Ms Kelly said.

Kraft, which has a market value of $49bn (£26bn), was unavailable for comment.