Woolies guilty of good old-fashioned plagiarism

Woolworths has been left red-faced by the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) ruling on Wednesday that found it had wilfully contravened advertising standards by plagiarising aspects of Frankie’s Olde Soft Drink Company.

The ASA has ordered Woolworths to withdraw its packaging immediately.

Read the full ruling (PDF)

Frankie’s co-owner Mike Schmidt dragged Woolworths to court over the wording “Good Old Fashioned”, which appears on his original packaging. The ASA ruled that Woolworths had “deliberately and intentionally” copied the phrase.

The ruling relates exclusively to the phrase.

In November, Woolworths introduced their new range to stores around the country, which are packaged, Frankies say, in near-identically shaped bottles with candy-striped labels.

Schmidt said the products bore design elements of such close resemblance “even regular Frankie’s consumers could not be criticised for their confusion between the beverages”.

On the outcome, Schmidt said: “We have won the battle but not the war. Although we are thrilled about the ruling, there are still important issues to be addressed.”

Frankie's Cinnamon Cola

“We knew that the distinctiveness of our brand was at stake and had to do whatever we could to protect it. We are extremely happy that the ASA ruling will ensure that Frankies’ image will remain unique,” he said.

Woolworths CEO Ian Moir said after the ruling: “We genuinely believed that the phrase ‘Good Old Fashioned’ was descriptive and could be used across a range of vintage styled products. Vintage products remain a global trend.” The company has, however, indicated it will follow the ruling.

Moir and Schmidt will meet on February 16 to discuss other issues needing to be resolved including other aspects of the packaging, including the use of a blonde woman on the label.

Schmidt said Frankie’s had met with Woolworths in June 2011, about a potential listing option but was rejected.

Schmidt said the public reaction, like that on Twitter, has shown that the public have clearly been misled. “I firmly believe that, had Frankie’s been a bigger company, Woolworths would never have tried this,” he said.

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