Woolworths accused of ‘copying’ local sock design‚ opens inquiry

A year after admitting there were striking similarities between Ubuntu Baba’s baby carriers and its own‚ Woolworths is again facing controversy‚ this time over sock designs.

Sexy Socks founder Dave Hutchison wrote in a Facebook post on Monday evening that some of their and other “small” sock brands’ designs had allegedly been copied.

“Today [Monday] I walked into Woolworths and saw my socks. Only‚ they weren’t my socks. It was just my design‚ altered ever so slightly‚ with a minor colour change. It was one of our original‚ iconic‚ designs from the really early days‚ and one that was a top seller for years.

“These were even made from bamboo. And it was on sale for a price well below what I can afford to offer. That’s what you can offer when you manufacture in China‚” he wrote.

Woolworths said in response to a query that the complaint was being investigated.

Spokesperson Kirsten Hewett told TimesLIVE on Tuesday: “We take allegations of IP [intellectual property] infringement very seriously. We are investigating this issue and will [provide] feedback as soon as possible.”

In January 2018‚ Ubuntu Baba founder Shannon McLaughlin accused Woolworths of copying her baby carrier designs and using her name on their version of the carriers‚ which were on sale in-store and online.

The retailer admitted there were striking similarities between their carriers and the Ubuntu Baba ones‚ which they recalled from stores‚ and subsequently apologised.

Hutchison wrote that he had poured his heart and soul into building Sexy Socks over the past five years and that entrepreneurship could at times be a “long‚ dark and lonely road” exacerbated when “big players” were “leveraging off our hard work”.

“I hope that South Africans will put their foot down and show that we will not tolerate this. I hope that they will stand up for the little guys‚ stand with our entrepreneurs‚ stand with small business and refuse to accept such poorly disguised plagiarism‚” he wrote.

He said every sale taken away from his company affected a team of eight. “You take away from our social mission. You take away and say small business is NOT the way forward. NOT something that can move and transform South Africa.”

This is a developing story and will be updated when new information becomes available.

By: Nico Gous – TMG Digital.

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