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Woolworths in a war of words

The Age

Monday March 21, 2011

By NINA HENDY

WOOLWORTHS is being taken to court by an independent food supplier for the use of the phrase "Honest to Goodness" in its latest advertising campaign starring cooking doyenne Margaret Fulton.Organic Marketing Australia, which trades as Honest to Goodness, is alleging Woolworth's latest marketing push launched a fortnight ago infringes its intellectual property.A hearing is set for the Sydney Federal Court tomorrow.Family-owned Honest to Goodness was started by Matt Ward and his wife, in their family home, eight years ago. Today, the retailer, wholesaler and online trader employs about 30 staff.Mr Ward sent a letter to Woolworths objecting to the use of the Honest to Goodness phrase, alleging it infringed on his trademark. This was followed up by a letter from his solicitor, he said, adding that while Woolworths acknowledged receipt of the letter, it had not officially responded."I've been racking my brain as to why they're doing this. I can't get my head around it. They're either incompetent and didn't do an IP search, or they're arrogant and they're trying to steamroll us. Our business isn't huge but we're not insignificant. I have taken this very personally." Mr Ward is limbering up for what is expected to be an expensive legal battle."I'm prepared to wear that given that Woolworths is potentially going to ruin everything I've worked so hard for over the past eight years. This is devastating to us, and the last thing we need on our plate."Woolworths denies the allegations. It maintains the term Honest to Goodness is a common phrase that can be used freely."The phrase Honest to Goodness describes something which is essentially simple and genuine and in the context of Margaret Fulton's family meals, also nutritious. We will continue to work with the parties involved to resolve this matter," a company spokeswoman said.Intellectual property lawyer Trevor Choy of Choy Lawyers, who is not involved in the case, believes Mr Ward has a strong case. "I think someone within Woolworths will be getting a spanking over this right now. It doesn't look as though Honest to Goodness is simply being used in a descriptive sense. It looks a lot like they're using it as branding."Mr Choy predicts it will cost Mr Ward hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Mr Ward said he's prepared for the fight. "Otherwise these guys just walk all over you," he said.

© 2011 The Age

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