Canterbury, the Springbok kit sponsor, is complaining that “counterfeit” goods are damaging its business and could lead to job losses. What hogwash!
Canterbury’s argument, a familiar complaint by branded-goods manufacturers, is based on a false assumption: that people would buy the “official” goods if alternatives — the far cheaper “fakes” — were not available. For most people, however, it is not an either-or situation. I, for one, would not pay R560 for a rugby shirt manufactured by Canterbury. I would pay R200 for a similar shirt made by who knows who. If the so-called “fake” were not available, I wouldn’t buy a Springbok jersey — period. The trade in rugby paraphernalia is not a zero-sum game. Eradicating the “counterfeit” trade, I suspect, won’t make a significant difference to Canterbury’s sales. Job losses? Tell me another one.
Another thing: Why should a T-shirt with a Springbok emblem be regarded as “fake” or “counterfeit” if it is not manufactured by Canterbury? The Springbok belongs to us all, not to the South African rugby bosses and their sponsors. Trademark laws are there to protect a brand that you have built and that makes your product different from others. But in this case, the law is entrenching a monopoly in the manufacture of something that is in huge demand for reasons with which Canterbury had nothing to do. The ridiculous prices the company charges as a result amounts to profiteering.
An article in the Times this week pointed out differences between “real” and “counterfeit” Springbok jerseys. The gist of it is that the “counterfeit” version doesn’t have Canterbury’s correct logo, the South African flag is on the wrong sleeve, and the embroidery of the Springbok emblem is inferior. But then, the “fake” also costs R360 less than the real thing, so do I care about inferior embroidery?
If Canterbury wants to sell more shirts, I have a simple suggestion: stop charging outrageous prices. If you can’t compete with other manufacturers, get out of the business.
The only reason I haven’t yet bought a “fake” Springbok jersey is that you can’t get them here in Grahamstown!