Actress and businesswoman Connie Ferguson’s beauty products has gone under threat after one of her competitors prosecuted her over allegations that she stole the trademarks of global brand Nivea.
Nivea owners Beiersdorf AG are suing Ferguson’s company Koni Multinational Brands for “passing off” some of its products as if they were Nivea’s and need a court order to clear retail shops of all Connie men’s products.
According to court papers filed by Beiersdorf’s attorneys Adams and Adams at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria in December, Ferguson and her business partners at Koni have been riding on the back of Nivea’s success and reputation to sell their Connie beauty and body care products.
Beiersdorf says in the court papers that it is the market leader in South Africa and have made a turnover of more than R8.7-billion since 2012, R258-million of which was exclusively from the sale of its shower gels.
At the middle of the row was the use of blue containers, silver and yellow fonts , logos as well as get-ups.
In its application, Beiersdorf petitioned for an interdict “to restrain the respondent from passing- off its Connie Body Care Men Active Shower Gel just like that, or as being related with that, of the applicant, by making use of a get-up in regard of the infringing shower gel which is probably going to cause confusion or deception in the market as to the source of its products or as to its connection or relationship with the applicant”.
Ferguson and her business partner Groovin Nchabeleng in their answering statement this week blamed the giant German multinational company for harassing.
“The respondent is bringing healthy competition to the men’s shower gel market, and the applicant, being an international company, is trying to bully and intimidate the respondent by bringing this baseless application,” they said in their court documents.
In its application, Beiersdorf tried to persuade the court that it had been in the business longer than Koni, which was established in 2012.
“The applicant has used its blue and white get-up continuously since 1925 and continues to use it to this day, including in South Africa.
“Printouts of pictures of the Nivea packaging (tin) for the years 1935, 1949, 1959, 1970 and 2007, showing the applicant’s extensive and long-standing use of the distinctive blue and white get-up, are annexed.
“In 2008 the applicant re-launched its Nivea Men range by, inter alia, applying a new get-up to its Nivea Men packaging, the applicant added the colour silver to its distinctive blue and white get-up.
“The applicant is, in fact, aware of actual confusion in the trade,” it said.
In its reaction, Koni rejected the claim that there was confusion in the trade and said Beiersdorf was picking on them as different brands like Clere, Vaseline and Protex were also using comparable packaging and colours.
“The applicant cannot claim monopoly over the blue, white and silver colours,” said Koni in its documents.
Ferguson was not available for comment.