Leading healthy fresh food delivery company, FIT Kitchen and it’s entrepreneur founder Amar Lodhia, are speaking out following a landmark case won against Sainsbury’s & Waitrose where on Monday 12 October 2020, a high court judge ordered an injunction against the supermarkets and found them guilty of trademark infringement and passing off along with their supplier Scratch Meals. The landmark case spanning two years reveals a lack of care for public safety whilst damaging independent companies’ reputations through knowingly selling food products with foreign objects being found in them, which can reflect badly on smaller companies sharing the same or similar names.
Foreign objects and unlisted allergens being found in food are relatively rare in the UK. When they do occur, however, they can have harmful or potentially deadly outcomes for the individual consuming them. Research also reveals the levels of food-borne illness in the UK, with an estimated 180 deaths a year and 2.4 million illnesses a year according to the Food Safety Agency- something especially concerning during COVID-19. This shows that some large corporations will put profit ahead of public safety in order to safeguard profit levels until they are confronted about the dangers.
A recent example of this is demonstrated through the FIT Kitchen intellectual property claim against a ready meal supplier, Scratch Meals whose product was stocked in a number of leading UK supermarkets under the same name as the Mr Lodhia’s FIT Kitchen.
The range of ready meals saw numerous complaints of foreign object contaminants (including stones, plastic, machinery parts etc.) and saw one member of the public go into anaphylactic shock whilst driving after consuming the Scratch Meals product due to poorly labelled allergen information . Due to the Intellectual Property (IP) infringement, complaints were directed to Mr Lodhia’s FIT Kitchen LTD, rather than the ready meal supplier, Scratch Meals, who were forced to change the name of the range to “SCRATCH” back in November 2019 after Mr Lodhia made an application to bring the trial forward from 17 June 2020 to an earlier date on the grounds of public safety and the resulting increasing damage being caused to his business.
Surprisingly, some UK supermarkets can be slow to act on these issues and can instead leave innocent parties like Mr Lodhia’s Fit Kitchen to pick up the pieces. Fit Kitchen and Mr Lodhia were left dealing with thousands of customer complaints following such issues being present in Scratch Meals supermarket stocked ready meal products which were infringing on Mr Lodhia’s Fit Kitchen’s trademark by using the same name.
Following the publication of these complaints, and the IP infringement, two major suppliers of the ready meal brand dropped their contracts, however, Sainsbury’s still continued to stock the products despite the knowledge of the public health risk- its own lab sent Mr Lodhia’s FIT Kitchen a lab report revealing a piece of cubed plastic in one of their suppliers meals in September last year. This demonstrates a clear disregard for public safety, and unfair business practises, in favour of ensuring continued profits.
On 12 October 2020, the court ordered an injunction against Scratch Meals, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. This means that they must remove all references to the Fit Kitchen range, any information they have in their possession relating to it and transfer the infringing Fit Kitchen trademark to Mr Lodhia and his business. Scratch Meals who lost the trial against them on 17 June 2020, were found guilty of trademark infringement and passing off and the supermarkets agreed to be bound by this outcome, thinking they may have a shot at winning against Mr Lodhia. In this remarkable story, where a small business and young entrepreneur founder won against major supermarkets who tried to “bully” them out of proceedings is a clear example why businesses should protect their intellectual property.
Since Scratch Meals stopped using the Fit Kitchen mark and Sainsbury’s no longer stocking the infringing product, Mr Lodhia’s business has thrived. Fit Kitchen now has over 22,000 registered users on its online platform, a meal delivery service rated 4.7 out of 5 on the likes of delivery platform, Deliveroo. Operating from a West London kitchen, Mr Lodhia has now secured a prime restaurant site and will be opening the first Fit Kitchen restaurant and takeaway in the New Year.