February 2019. Dutch brewery Grolsch, which owns the Kornuit trademark for beer, has asked the Rotterdam district court to stop supermarket chain Lidl from selling its own-brand beer, Kordaat. The two firms took their dispute to court two weeks ago.

No open and shut case

It’s an interesting case, and, as so often in trademark law, not an open and shut one. Is Kordaat so similar to Kornuit as to present a risk of confusion? Although we didn’t attend the court hearing, we can be pretty sure the following arguments were traded by the respective parties.

Case for infringement

  • The prefix of a word mark always carries the most weight: in both cases it’s the distinctive letter grouping ‘KOR’
  • The rhythm and sound of both trademarks is identical: first ‘Kor’, then ‘Nuit’ or ‘Daat’, i.e. a group of 4 letters ending with a T

Case against infringement

  • Kornuit and Kordaat in Dutch have a different meaning
  • Kordaat is sold only in Lidl outlets whereas Kornuit is not, so there’s no risk of confusion

Our view

If Chiever were asked to predict the outcome of this case, we’d expect Kornuit to win, chiefly because the two trademarks do sound very similar. Plus the fact that although Kordaat is only sold in Lidl supermarkets, this may still not be enough to avoid confusion: first, because consumers see adverts for Kordaat beer outside Lidl, and second, because the after-sales confusion. We’ll know the outcome in just over a week’s time.

Bas Kist