What’s the likelihood a biscuit maker is passing-off an older brand?

Passing-off: making some false representation likely to induce a person to believe that the goods or services are those of another. — Duhaime’s Law Dictionary

A biscuit is “any of various hard or crisp dry baked product” similar to the American English terms cracker or cookie, or “a small quick bread made from dough that has been rolled out and cut or dropped from a spoon”.

Birthdays for children in many parts of Nigeria in the good old days were incomplete without the item. Neither were provisions to take to the boarding house.

It’s the ubiquitous CABIN biscuit.

Metamorphosis: The old pack and the new. Source: Nairaland

How on earth it became so popular should be a research study, because, unlike the other favourite biscuit of that era — MALTED biscuit (real name: Malted Milk — because of its malt flavouring and milk content), CABIN was so bland and hard that it was appropriately named Pako (Yoruba for wood) and you could only enjoy it by spreading some margarine (usually Blue Band, made by the then Lever Brothers, now Unilever) in between a pair, or dunking it in tea or milk.

Even the maker’s name (Oxford) was suppressed on the pack. All they wanted you to see is the CABIN.

Now imagine, several decades after, walking through a supermarket aisle of biscuits and coming across another reddish pack bearing Cabin, but in blue cursive and no man and woman each holding a piece of biscuit, and the maker is not Oxford.

Is this some passing-off? Isn’t CABIN an Oxford trademark or what? During a multimedia storytelling training session, I promised the trainees I would resolve the puzzle.

Standard chartered

Four things I did next

  • Ask Google : What’s cabin biscuit?
  • No satisfactory answer, but within the answers Google threw up, I picked up the portal for Oxford Products which, since 1992, are now being manufactured by Niger Biscuit Company Limited, after “(the old company) became self-sufficient in all operational and technical areas of biscuits and confectionery manufacturing.” Still, no clue as to what’s cabin biscuit or its origins.

  • Visited the website of the makers of the other cabin biscuit, Deli.

  • No headway, so sent emails to the contacts provided on the websites.

The email to Deli:

Dear Sir/Ma:

In our journalism class today, your biscuit was served during our lunch break.

Then one of our students who grew up eating Oxford’s CABIN Biscuit wondered if there was any relationship between your Cabin Sweetened Delicious Biscuits and Oxford’s CABIN Sweetened Biscuit.

The email to Niger Biscuit:

Dear Sir/Ma:

In our journalism class today, a debate ensued over what relationship your CABIN biscuit has with Deli’s Sweetened Delicious Biscuit? Or is it a passing off on your CABIN?

But is your CABIN even a Trademark?

Or, in the Biscuit world, CABIN is identifiable with a type of biscuit? 

Only one response — and it was swift — but it was good enough

A Deli rep replied thus:

“There’s actually no relationship between Oxford CABIN Biscuit and Deli Cabin Sweetened, except that they are both Cabin biscuits.

Cabin biscuits are semi sweet biscuits, typically eaten with a topping or spread.” (All emphasis, mine)

I wasn’t satisfied, so I sent another email asking:

“Does it mean that Cabin is a term for the kind of biscuits. It is not necessarily a Niger Biscuit term?”

This time, the Deli rep identified himself as EMMA. The response:

“Yes, Cabin is a generic name for biscuits in that family. Just like shortcake, crackers, coaster, etc. Cabin is not a Niger Biscuit’s term.”

Thereafter, I went on an online search for Cabin biscuit

I wanted to know more about Cabin biscuit, so I asked Google for “biscuit types”.

I found myself in the yummy world of biscuits, via https://www.biscuitpeople.com/magazine/biscuit-types? Go ahead and stimulate your palate.

But, there was nothing on Cabin biscuit…

Perhaps I was looking at the wrong place or I was asking the wrong the question? What about “list of cookies”? That brought me here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cookies.

No Cabin, but I had another crazy idea…

Create a map.

I actually started. Then stopped. Because it was time-consuming.

See, how far I went with my Geography of biscuits, cookies.

I went back to my friend at Deli: “Unfortunately,” I wrote in the email,

“I have not been able to find Cabin among the biscuit types I searched…. What seems closest to Cabin is Rich Tea. Please enlighten me, is Rich Tea the same as Cabin Biscuit?”

…and the final answer is:

No. Cabin biscuits are square shaped while Rich Tea are round. They are both hard dough, semi-sweet biscuits.

I used up all my lifelines but I have a gift for you


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