New legislation to combat copycat products could be in place by the
middle of next year, after a series of rows this year.
An ‘unfair competition’ law could bring an end to disputes between brand
owners and retailers over the intellectual property rights of a product.
There is industry momentum for an act that will rule out further spats
between retailers and brand owners, such as the most recent one between
International Distillers and Vinters and Asda over the resemblance of
its spirits range to brands such as Southern Comfort and Jack Daniels.
The Institute of Grocery Distribution’s code of conduct on copycat
brands, introduced earlier this year, has failed to live up to its
promises and is to be reviewed.
Since its introduction in February, Tesco and Kellogg, both signatories
to the code, and Asda and United Biscuits have fallen out over
Industry sources have indicated that the Department of Trade and
Industry is open to proposals. Labour’s consumer affairs spokesman Nigel
Griffiths is also known to be ready to find a solution. If there is
evidence that consumers are being duped then it has to be stopped, the
‘It is still a thorny issue. The code has not taken the heat out of it.
The problem still exists and UK legislation is still inadequate,’ said
John Noble, director of the British Brands Group.
The fast-moving world of consumer goods has left the current Trade Marks
Act 1994, which protects certain characteristics of a brand, standing.
‘It’s such a rigid system. It’s not possible to get something registered
in 12 months; it can take up to three years. What’s that when a company
can turn around a lookalike in four months,’ said Paul Walsh of Bristows
Cooke & Carpmael, a solicitor specialising in this area.