Passing off

IT’S TECHNICALLY ILLEGAL to try to copy a commercial rival’s design in such a way that it will tend to confuse the buying public, leading them to associate your brand with theirs and enticing them into making the wrong purchase. It’s known as passing off, and it’s not only frowned upon, it’s against the law.

But it happens all the time. Take the example above: Benylin is the brand leader in cough mixtures, with its recognisable red for chesty coughs, yellow for tickly coughs, and graphic showing a silhouette with a glow in the throat showing the remedy in action. And yet the Superdrug versions of these medications ape the Benylin packaging almost exactly.

It’s not just in medication where we see this underhand process – it occurs in almost every the commercial field.

On the left is Head & Shoulders shampoo, with its distinctive curved blue top and blue on white design. And note the Morrisons own-brand shampoo next to it, which uses an almost identical packaging design.

This is not to say that named brands are necessarily better products than supermarkets’ own brands. But the intention to confuse is certainly there.

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