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News & Views Time to see off the copycat cowboys!

One of the biggest problems facing the spice business at the moment are the ‘copycat cowboys’. These are compa- nies who try and pretend they have a link with an existing business - per- haps a restaurant, a magazine or an awards scheme - but which in reality are only a substandard, and less pro- fessional copy.

‘Passing off’ as it is known is becom- ing increasingly common, and it is criti- cally important to business confidence to stop the practice, to protect estab- lished brands and businesses from those who are attempting to copy them. The practice is dishonest, confusing to customers and seriously damaging to the reputation and profitability of suc- cessful businesses. It not only shows a lack of respect to people who have worked hard to establish a successful business, but it also exposes the cow- boys themselves to the risk of legal action.

When starting or running a busi- ness, you need to develop your own ideas and to be original. Success will be partly dependent on highlighting a difference with your competitors, and having a unique approach will increase the chance of creating a prof- itable business with a real future. No self-respecting, professional business person with any real business acumen should ‘piggyback’ on the hard earned reputation of other businesses by trying to steal their brand name and identity.

Anyone resorting to copying another business brand is totally lacking in commercial sense, creativity and ambition, and is simply not fit to run a business. Their handling of other business issues is likely to be equally unprofessional and they are more than likely destined to fail, causing future problems to their customers, staff and suppliers. These cowboys must not be allowed to risk damaging the repu- tation and profitability of successful businesses, which have invested time and money in establishing their image and reputation.

There are legal means of protection. Any business which has obtained a trade mark registration granted by the UK Intellectual Property Office can take legal action against anyone who uses a similar name, and having this regis- tration will allow Trading Standards Officers or even the Police to bring criminal charges against counterfeit- ers if they use the trade mark. It will also help in preventing infringement by people using similar marks in relation- ship to services that are identical, can be confused with, or which are similar to those that the protected business provides.

The courts are one route. But the indus- try does not necessarily need to go to Court to get things put right. Another way is for the community as a whole

to be strong enough to challenge the cowboys and to try and reason with them. Rather than using the legal route, the industry should seek to edu- cate the perpetrators and their cus- tomers through greater awareness of the problem and highlight the damage being done to the good and hard work undertaken often over many years by the established companies who are being harmed.

If someone has made a genuine mis- take then this is understandable, but those doing it deliberately on purpose are completely unacceptable. For such companies the time has come to ‘name and shame’.





Spice Business Magazine


March 2011

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