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Woolworths pulls baby carriers after copying scandal

Woolworths was selling a carrier of the same colour, design and name for a third of the price.

South African retailer Woolworths has removed a baby carrier from its shelves, admitting it had “striking similarities” to a product offered by a small boutique retailer.

The company found itself at the centre of a media storm this week after the owner of Ubuntu Baba, Shannon McLaughlin, wrote a blog post stating that Woolworths was selling a product of the same colour, design and name as hers, for a third of the price.

“While there are differences in our baby carrier, there are striking similarities which we acknowledge and take responsibility for,” the firm said in a statement, sent to Reuters on Thursday.

It apologised to McLaughlin and customers over the issue, which it said went against its policy, and said the lapse was being addressed internally, including via the training of staff, suppliers and partners.

The incident has been embarrassing for the retailer, which was embroiled in a copying scandal in 2016 when South Africa‘s Advertising Standards Authority ruled the packaging on a range of its soft drinks imitated that of small drinks firm Frankies.

McLaughlin told Reuters on Thursday while she was pleased the carriers had been withdrawn, a number of other individuals had been in touch with her to say large firms, including Woolworths, had done something similar with their products.

“It can’t just end there,” she said, adding it needed to publicly state what steps it is going to take to prevent this from happening again. 

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This happens time, and time again.

Anyone remember Frankie-Bells challenging WW about WW copying their ginger beer ? And there are numerous other examples.

SA corporate culture is one of dishonesty, deceit and greed – all at the expense of the little wo(man) – which is always why I find corporate SA lecturing the public sector about corruption hysterically funny.

You should change that from ‘SA corporate culture’ to SA culture. Corruption has become ingrained in this society and it is truly disgusting.

One example and it happens all the time?

@teamed209 You haven’t been following. This is the umpteenth time someone has accused WW of stealing an idea that they brought to them in potential partnership.

Again stupid from a corporate in SA to give in to the manufactured outrage on social media. If there was a legitimate copy from someone within Woolies then fire the guy and hold them up as the reason this happened, if you were offered from the product from China for much cheaper then how is it their problem?

They reference Frankies right in the article. Nothing to do with copying their product, but rather the packaging (brand) similarities. What made it egregious is that several Woolworths stocked Frankies products before they decided pull the rug out and stock their in house line. Poor form.

I have an issue with Ubuntu Baba selling it at 3 times the price as Woolworths.

I hope that Woolworths can find a replacement to these carriers and continue selling them and the market ditching Ubuntu Baba and supporting Woolworths.

Was there’s anything genuinely new or innovative about the Ubuntu Baba baby carrier, or was it – too – just an evolution of the dozens of baby carriers available for years worldwide? I don’t know the answer but it seems like there are lots of very similar baby carriers on the market. This small business in that case did not invent anything or come up with an ingenious idea as far as I can make out.

You are correct in your assessment. This is not a case of IP infringement of any kind. Rather a case of what called passing off.

Why are they fighting over IP rights for a product they both source from China and didn’t invent?

Nothing unique about their business models or products.

Nothing to do with IP rights and everything to do with brand perception. This is called ‘passing off’. Woolies even use the technical marketing term ‘striking similarity’ where several factor are used to determine passing off. So Woolies realised they were in the wrong here. Funny thing is that simply changing the colour would have avoided all this.

If it’s not yours, not made by you, no IP registered, you can’t claim ownership. Unless there are specific trademarks, patents or similar registered in SA.

Otherwise, can’t see what’s wrong with sourcing the same/similar product from wherever and putting your own brand name on it.

Definitely a good idea on Woolworths part. Seems they have learned to deal with the fallout….somewhat. Let see if they can put in some preventative measures.

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