By Victoria Ojeme
The Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) says the agency will stop certifying products and businesses engaged in cloning and imitating leading brands to check counterfeiting in the markets.
Although the practice of intentionally integrating the name, shape, symbol, colour of a leading brand to a new brand has been common its perceived legality and acceptability are elusive.
One reason may be that imitating is different from obvious forms of trademark infringement, such as counterfeiting and piracy, which are easy to define and identify. Brand imitation–or “passing off,” in legal language–is based on similarities, and what is perceived to be similar to one party may not be perceived as such by others.
However, the Director-General of SON, Malam Farouk Salim, while receiving the Alaba International Amalgamated Traders Association, during a visit to the SON office in Lagos yesterday, explained that the agency would discourage the registration of any product that has a similar business name with an existing brand or those hidden under the names of successful brands to short-change unsuspecting consumers.
He said “The issue of cloning brands cannot be handled alone by SON, but going forward, we are going to audit the products we register and certify. Anytime a new product comes and looks similar to another registered product that is already popular in the market, we will try to discourage the registration of that product with such a name, so that other products would be identified properly. This will increase traceability of products not yet in circulation.”
The SON said the decision would help to curb the production of products that clone the names of successful brands to deceive the unsuspecting consumers. He warned that these unscrupulous individuals would be prosecuted if found wanting.
The DG emphasized that SON on its own could not handle the issue of brand cloning, promising to put a stock of the products registered and certified by the standards body.
He explained that the agency is set to increase its level of engagement with stakeholders, especially the Alaba International Market traders, as this move would go a long way in protecting the interest of the business community, while also safeguarding lives and properties.
“Anytime a new product comes and looks similar to another product registered, and is already popular in the market, we will try to discourage registration of that product with such a name.
“This will ensure proper identification of already registered products. It will also increase traceability of products that are not fit to be in circulation. We are here to work with these brands and to make their jobs easy. We are to protect their interest, because they are Nigerians, employing people and they are doing what needs to be done.”
“We are looking forward to cooperating with them to ensure that every other individual in their association, not doing the right thing, is encouraged to do the right thing in the future.
“We are inviting stakeholders and the plan is to work together with them to sensitize and train them on the safety of lives and property. As for those still breaking the laws, we will enforce our law, either by court or through the appropriate regulatory agency,” Salim said.
Earlier, the Executive Chairman of the association, Fabian Ezeorjika, reaffirmed the association’s commitment to working with SON in a bid to find these unscrupulous individuals. He disclosed that there was an existing partnership with SON toward achieving a substandard-free market.
Ezeorjika explained that a ‘buyer beware campaign’ is ongoing in the market, and this is a Joint Task Force, comprising SON officials.