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Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.





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Pushing the limits of imitations in Switzerland

Anybody who has spent some time in Switzerland must have noticed the big orange "M" of the largest retailer, Migros. This is not your usual retailer, as it is produces the goods in its own facilities, thus cutting a middleman or two, and is owned by its customers. Interestingly, it produces only for the domestic market, and very rarely you will find its brands abroad. While Migros carries only store brands, they are of good quality and often designed to compete with "well-known" brands from competing retailers.

And Migros has for decades been pushing the limits of how closely it can imitate brand products, often openly making puns on brand names and besting the quality of the imitated product. And while the imitated brand holders were upset, there is little they could do and Swiss courts have been largely sympathetic to Migros. The judges are probably shopping there.

Now it seems that Migros may have overstepped some boundary. As the Tagesanzeiger reports (in German), the new line of ice cream "Jane & Mary", a clear imitation of "Ben & Jerry", will be modified once the current stock is sold. Brand holder Unilever must have made some legal threat that had some impact, but how is unclear. Migros does not need Unilever, being quite self-reliant, and there have been more blatant imitations in the past.

In any case, the next time you are in Switzerland, check out Migros and try to recognize all the imitations. And sample its goods, especially in the chocolate and dairy section.


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