Imperial sues London start-up for ‘passing off’

Imperial Tobacco is suing South London company Ro-chez for allegedly “passing off” its Rizla cigarette paper brand to market a product associated with drug use.

The tobacco giant has launched a High Court action for “passing off” against the fledgling company, claiming damages of more than &£15,000.

Ro-chez last year launched dispensers of perforated cardboard strips for use as filters in hand-rolled cigarettes with the catchline: “Ro-chez: for the King Size smoker.”

The product received coverage in the style press and is on sale at selected London outlets. The Ro-chez name is a registered trademark.

Imperial claims the Roch-ez logo is similar to Rizla’s brand identity, and that the company is trying to trade off the cigarette paper’s established reputation.

Imperial’s lawyers have indicated that their client is unhappy about Ro-chez’s implied connection with drug use.

Matthew Quinlan, one of Ro-chez’s founders, admits some Ro-chez books are likely be used by cannabis smokers, but adds: “It’s a well-known fact that people smoke joints with king size papers.”

Imperial managing director Graham Blashill says: “The current litigation is purely about protecting Rizla’s intellectual property rights.

“The Rizla name and pack graphics are both very well known and we are determined not to allow our rights to be undermined.”

The case is due to be heard towards the end of the year.

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