Gardening brand Kingfisher has been awarded £80,000 from the TopTrade Group after it settled out of court for piggybacking on the brand’s reputation to sell own-brand products on sites such as Amazon and eBay.
Kingfisher does not sell directly on Amazon or eBay, although its retail partners can.
However, parent company Bonnington Plastics discovered that companies in the TopTrade Group – which includes Zoozio, Trade Marketing and Verage – were advertising Kingfisher goods on the marketplaces but then supplying own-branded products.
Managing director Ian Fisher explained that the compnaies were former customers of Bonnington, but had started to import their own products from China.
“We found that they were advertising Kingfisher products at impossibly low prices. This was causing our retail customers to believe that we were offering better prices to their competitors,” he said.
“We started buying from these companies and found out that they weren’t supplying Kingfisher goods at all. It was really damaging the brand”.
Fisher believes that these so-called ‘substitute sellers’ were costing the business about £1m a year in lost sales and its in-house investigations showed that, at the peak of the problem, one in every two items advertised online as Kingfisher was a substitute product.
“The goods looked almost identical to Kingfisher products. The packaging was so similar that it was difficult to tell them apart and they had even used photos taken by our graphic design team,” Fisher continued.
The company’s lawyers, Pannone Corporate, issued a High Court claim on behalf of Bonnington which was settled on terms awarding Bonnington £80,000 in compensation and banned the Toptrade Group from selling their own goods under Kingfisher listings online.
Sarah Bazaraa, Intellectual Property solicitor at Pannone Corporate, said the problem stems from the Amazon AISN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) numbers given to products online.
“Each product sold on Amazon is given an ASIN Amazon allows sellers to upload products with a new ASIN or to an existing ASIN (if they are selling an identical product). However, some companies are taking advantage of this function and advertising their own products under an established brand’s listing in order to take advantage of the superior ranking and pulling power of that brand,” she said.
Bazarra said Bonnington’s result sends a strong message to the market about infringement of its IP rights and revealed it is continuing to work with the company to take action against another group of companies and their directors.