Woolworths pulled its baby carriers from stores fairly promptly after founder and owner of Ubuntu Baba Shannon McLaughlin made claims that the retail store had copied her product.
After some discussion and negotiations between the parties, the matter seems to have been resolved.
Now Woolworths and Ubuntu Baba have released a joint statement.
We are pleased to announce that Ubuntu Baba and Woolworths have reached a positive and amicable resolution.— Joint statement by Woolworths and Ubuntu Baba
Ubuntu Baba founder and owner Shannon McLaughlin talks to John Maytham shortly after the statement was released on Friday.
Take a listen to what Shannon has to say:
Shannon says the primary goal for her was the removal of the baby carriers from Woolworths stores.
But she also wants this to set a significant example so that others do not fall victim to a similar situation.
So there were quite a few boxes that I wanted to be ticked and I wanted them to be open with us in terms of talking about what internal procedures they were going to work on in training and trying to prevent it.— Shannon McLaughlin, Ubuntu Baba Carrier founder
She says Woolworths was very open about this and there are some confidential issues she cannot divulge.
The statement reads:
Some examples of these enhanced measures include an Intellectual Property e-learning module to ensure enterprise-wide reach of training, increasing Intellectual Property training to Woolworths employees and all relevant suppliers, and to explore additional systems functionality to support these measures.— Joint statement by Woolworths and Ubuntu Baba
She says drawing inspiration from other products is acceptable.
There is a big difference between copying and drawing inspiration...it is ok to draw inspiration from trends....but not to take over a portion of the market so that a business could close down.— Shannon McLaughlin, Ubuntu Baba Carrier founder
You have to put something in it that is uniquely yours.— Shannon McLaughlin, Ubuntu Baba Carrier founder
Woolworths has stated it will donate proceeds from the sales "to a credible institution with a view to educating, supporting and developing SMEs in South Africa. The remaining proceeds will be paid to Ubuntu Baba."
Regarding the two Woolworths employees whose purchases of the Ubuntu Baba baby carriers had been tracked to the company's head office, Shannon says she does not believe either is responsible for the copying.
We were contacted personally by both of those employees...and I just want to make it clear that it wasn't them.— Shannon McLaughlin, Ubuntu Baba Carrier founder
Woolworths has made it clear that it was the supplier who purchased the carriers and not employees in their personal capacity.
Read the joint statement by Woolworths and Shannon McLaughlin's Ubuntu Baba below:
We are pleased to announce that Ubuntu Baba and Woolworths have reached a positive and amicable resolution.
As a primarily private label business and given this recent experience, Woolworths will be putting into place additional measures to avoid a similar incident arising in the future. Some examples of these enhanced measures include an Intellectual Property e-learning module to ensure enterprise-wide reach of training, increasing Intellectual Property training to Woolworths employees and all relevant suppliers, and to explore additional systems functionality to support these measures.
In addition, Woolworths will not be retaining any profits from the sale of its baby carriers and instead, will donate a large portion of those proceeds to a credible institution with a view to educating, supporting and developing SMEs in South Africa. The remaining proceeds will be paid to Ubuntu Baba.
The concerns raised by Ubuntu Baba around Woolworths instructions for the baby carriers are being resolved in conjunction with Ubuntu Baba and credible international experts appointed by Woolworths.
As mentioned in previous communications, Woolworths will donate the baby carriers to parents in under-resourced communities.
Finally, investigations into the matter have confirmed that the two Woolworths employees referenced in Ubuntu Baba’s blog, purchased the Ubuntu Baba baby carriers as legitimate mothers-to-be, who work for Woolworths but in completely unrelated departments.
Both Ubuntu Baba and Woolworths are committed to ensuring that entrepreneurs and small businesses are uplifted and supported. We hope that the learnings and positive outcomes of this incident will be used to drive continued SME development in South Africa.