Imperial Tobacco has applied for an injunction to stop arch-rival Gallaher from selling a hand-rolling tobacco with the same name as one of its brands – even though the Imperial product is not sold under the Drum name in the UK.
The Imperial brand Drum is understood to be the third most popular hand-rolling tobacco because of the scale of illegal imports. Cheaper prices on the Continent have led to an increase in tobacco smuggling.
Gallaher has registered the name Drum as a UK trademark, after launching its own version of the brand earlier this year (MW July 16).
In the UK, Imperial’s product is sold under the name Duma. Swedish Match owns the distribution rights.
On August 5, Imperial issued a High Court writ asking for an injunction to stop Gallaher from “passing off” goods by using the name Drum, and, or using a “get-up the same or confusingly similar” to Imperial’s brand. The writ also aims to prevent Gallaher from using “any trademark which, or the essential part of which, is identical” to Drum.
The Imperial Group acquired the Drum brand when it bought Douwe Egberts Van Nelle from the Sara Lee Corp for 650m in April.
Imperial, which is joined in the action by Van Nelle Tabak Nederland BV and Douwe Egberts Van Nelle Tobacco International BV, is also claiming damages for the alleged act of passing off. A full hearing is due to take place in the High Court in January next year.
Gallaher refuses to comment on the issue.