Poundstretcher sued for 'selling fake bottles of Head & Shoulders shampoo'

Consumer products group Procter & Gamble files for damages over alleged copyright infringement in 2013-14

Simon Neville
Retail Correspondent
Sunday 28 February 2016 21:21
Comments
The discount chain Poundstretcher is being sued by the consumer products group Procter & Gamble for allegedly selling fake bottles of Head & Shoulders shampoo
The discount chain Poundstretcher is being sued by the consumer products group Procter & Gamble for allegedly selling fake bottles of Head & Shoulders shampoo

Shoppers could be forgiven for thinking that, when Aldi launched its new Norpak butter, it was perhaps trying to trade-in on the established brand name of Lurpak.

But the issue of copycat brands has reached new heights after it emerged that the discount chain Poundstretcher is being sued by the consumer products group Procter & Gamble for allegedly selling fake bottles of Head & Shoulders shampoo.

The US firm has filed for damages at the High Court, claiming copyright infringement in 2013-14, when bottles bought at Poundstrecher turned out to be fake, according to The Sunday Times.

The case could turn a spotlight on cheaper, private labels looking very similar to big brands, which many analysts say stretches copyright laws to the limit and has grown as the discount sector booms.

Richard Hyman, a retail analyst, said: “It goes hand in hand with the discounting sector being very significantly busier than it was, whether it is in food or fashion. However, it is not a sustainable approach and retailers have to create and develop their own brands and identities – standing or falling on the strength of that.”

A recent survey by Which? found that nearly one in four shoppers had mistakenly purchased an own-label product instead of a brand because of similar packaging. There have been a series of court actions by leading brands against supermarkets for copyright infringement, including Asda being forced to change the packaging of its Puffin chocolate biscuits after they were found to be too similar to McVitie’s Penguin bars.

Aldi was served with an injunction by The Saucy Fish Company, although the case never went to court. Aldi subsequently removed the product from its shelves. One of the few cases to be won was by Reckitt & Colman, which in 1990 won a claim against a copycat Jif Lemon because of its unique packaging.

With the rise of discount chains such as Poundland, Aldi and Lidl, the issue has become more prevalent. Clive Black, an analyst at Shore Capital, said: “Supermarket private labels have long stretched boundaries and tested the goodwill of trademark law, consumers, manufacturers and regulators with mimicry.”

But lawyers have previously warned that, owing to the complexity of copyright laws, it is difficult for claimants to win. Analysts also point out that there is an uneasy relationship between retailers and brands that runs the risk of being broken with court action – a retailer could threaten to stop selling branded products, and court costs can be excessive.

Other brands facing competition from similar products includePimm’s, with most supermarkets selling a similar-looking version, Samson malt vinegar in Lidl, which looks similar to Sarson’s, and Choco Rice in Aldi, which uses a yellow box and monkey cartoon similar to Kellogg’s Coco Pops.

Many retailers will argue that their customers can tell the difference, and also that their brands are of similar quality but significantly cheaper. But Mr Black questioned that premise, saying: “Comparing Norpak to Lurpak is dubious. The Advertising Standards Authority needs to make sure the public is not misled”.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in