Bruce Cohen
Bruce Cohen

Tiger Brands: Infantile bully

Earlier this month my company took a stand at a baby show at Emperor’s Palace. We decorated our stand with posters and products to promote Holle, a Swiss range of organic baby foods and formulas, which we have been distributing for several years. One of the posters we put on the stand said: “Holle — Trusted Swiss Quality and Purity.”

Yesterday I received a letter from Spoor & Fisher, lawyers representing Tiger Brands, owners of the giant Purity brand of baby foods.

The full text of their letter is published below, but the gist of it is that Tiger claims we have infringed their trademark by using the word “purity” in our poster. (You can see a copy of the poster here).

That’s right, Tiger believes it owns the word “purity” when any reference is made to baby foods in this country.

You’d think that a company with a public image akin to babyshit after it fleeced millions of poor people in the bread price-fixing scandal would have more important things on its corporate mind. Clearly not.

My response to their long letter is also published below. The gist of it is that I told them to bugger off, but I somehow suspect they won’t. I’ll keep this blog posted as the story develops.

Their letter:

SPOOR & FISHER

Absolute Organix
501 Jules Street
Malvern

Your Ref:
Our Ref: LT3016387/MER
Date: 8 April 2011

Dear Sirs

South Africa – Use of PURITY in advertising of HOLLE products and objection thereto by Tiger Food Brands Intellectual Property Holding Company (Proprietary) Limited

1. We act on behalf of Tiger Food Brands Intellectual Property Holding Company (Pty) Limited.

2. Our client is the proprietor in South Africa of various trade mark registrations incorporating the word PURITY. Full details are annexed, marked “A”. These trade marks are in use and are valid.

3. By virtue of the aforegoing registered trade marks, our client has exclusive rights in South Africa to use, as well as to authorise others to use, the PURITY trade marks in relation to the goods covered by the registrations or goods similar thereto. Our client’s rights also extend to any trade marks which are confusingly or deceptively similar to the above marks.

4. Our client has made extensive use of its PURITY trade mark in relation to “baby food products” in South Africa. As a result of such use the trade mark has acquired a substantial reputation and it in fact denotes our client’s goods and services. Strong common law rights therefore subsist in the trade mark PURITY and such rights are an important and valuable component of our client’s goodwill.

5. The attached advertisement of your HOLLE products has been brought to our client’s attention. You will note that in your advertisement the statement is made “Trusted Swiss Quality and Purity” alongside a picture of a baby. Our client’s view is that your use of the trade mark PURITY would lead consumers to be confused into believing that there is a link with our client’s very well known PURITY product.

6. Our client is accordingly of the view that your use of the trade mark PURITY in this manner amounts to an infringement of our client’s registered rights in terms of the Trade Marks Act.

7. Furthermore, our client has also instructed us to advise that your use of the trade mark PURITY in this manner constitutes passing off under the common law and is unlawful.

8. Morevoer, your conduct is in breach of clause 8 and 9 of the Code of Advertising Practice of the Advertising Standards Authority.

9. In the circumstances, our client has requested us to draw its concerns to your attention and obtain your agreement to amend your advertisements so as to exclude the word PURITY.

10. We trust that you will take our client’s concerns seriously and look forward to receiving your confirmation that you will withdraw and amend all existing adverts and agree in future to refrain from using the word PURITY in relation to your HOLLE products.

11. We await to hear from you by close of business on Tuesday, 12 April 2011, failing which our client will have no choice but to take this matter further.

Yours faithfully
Spoor & Fisher

Megan Reimers
/mm

Direct Tel: +27 12 676 1081
E-mail: [email protected]

______________________________

My email response:

I regard your client’s efforts to bully me as offensive and its allegations frivolous. Ownership of a trademark does not constitute ownership of the English language. Your client is likely delusional and/or paranoid in suggesting we are attempting to pass off Holle’s superior organic foods as Purity’s cheap, inferior products. If anything, our marketing is designed to distance ourselves as far as possible from your client’s products.

Bruce Cohen
CEO
Absolute Organix