NEWS: Copycat brand law on horizon

New legislation to combat copycat products could be in place by the middle of next year, after a series of rows this year.

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

‘lookalike’ products.



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

argument goes.



‘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.



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