According to the 2011/ 2012 Annual Report published by the South African Revenue Service, customs seized in excess of 7-million counterfeit items, valued at approximately R1.1-billion, during the year ending March 2012. Unfortunately, the manufacture and importation of such goods is showing no signs of slowing down. While consumers have become accustomed to seeing counterfeit shoes, clothing and DVD’s being sold at street corners and flea markets, many would not even think twice when seeing lookalike or Tupperware® branded plastic goods. It is unfortunately a sign of the times that even Tupperware® goods are not safe from counterfeiting.
In late 2011, well known plastic household goods company, Tupperware, noticed a sudden influx of counterfeit plastic containers into the South African market. The containers infringed Tupperware’s copyright and trade mark rights. Tupperware appointed intellectual property attorneys and private investigators and launched a countrywide investigation into stores selling counterfeit Tupperware® branded or lookalike goods.
The investigators were successful in locating a warehouse, situated in Fordsburg, Johannesburg, which was storing very large volumes of counterfeit Tupperware® goods.
With the assistance of the police and customs, Tupperware managed to detain and seize in excess of 170 000 containers. Tupperware initiated criminal and civil proceedings against the owners of the goods. The civil matter was eventually settled on the basis that, amongst others, all the counterfeit goods would be destroyed and the owners of the goods would contribute towards Tupperware’s legal costs.
According to Steven Yeates, partner at law firm Adams & Adams, the destruction of the goods, which took just over two weeks to complete, has yielded “a mountain of broken, crushed or shredded plastic containers”. Yeates has confirmed that all the plastic was recycled.
“The seizure and destruction of such a large quantity of goods is a major victory, not only for our client Tupperware, but also for the 200 000+ sales agents who sell genuine Tupperware® goods in South Africa,” says Yeates. According to him the sale of counterfeit goods not only stifles sales of genuine Tupperware® products, it also causes significant damage to the brand and frustrates the business of authorised sales agents.
“We have seen a definite decrease in the number of counterfeit Tupperware® goods in the market after the seizure operations, but will remain vigilant and have put in place the necessary measures to ensure that customs can also seize counterfeit Tupperware® goods should they be imported from abroad,” says Yeates.
Stephen Yeates, partner, Adams & Adams