Legal battle over a hashtag as David and Goliath brands produce same idea

Turtle Wax's US PR agency Zeno has defended itself against cries of 'Foul!' from a small UK-based rival to the US-headquartered car care brand.

Both Turtle Wax (above) and Dodo Juice chose the term 'reflectie'
Both Turtle Wax (above) and Dodo Juice chose the term 'reflectie'

The escalating row centres on the similarity between the two sides’ recent PR and marketing campaigns, which both appeal to customers to take selfies in the reflection of their shiny cars and share them on the brand's social media platforms.

Both brands have described the concept as a ‘reflectie’ and have used that term as a hashtag to promote their competitions.

But while Turtle Wax is offering a brand new 2015 Ford Mustang as the prize for the best ‘reflectie’, UK-based Dodo Juice only has the budget to give away four £100 car care kits.

Dodo Juice’s co-founder Dom Colbeck and his agency partner Accelerate PR contacted PRWeek UK after spotting the launch of Turtle Wax’s ‘Get Out There and Shine’ campaign on 8 May.

Accelerate PR director Joel Newman pointed out Dodo’s ‘Basics of Bling’ campaign pre-dates it by nine days, having launched on 29 April.

Newman contacted PRWeek last week after Colbeck emailed Zeno and Turtle Wax to challenge them on the similarities.

After PRWeek contacted Zeno for comment on the situation the agency’s Chicago MD Grant Deady got in touch to clarify.

Deady said: "I can assure you this is nothing more than two companies having the same great idea. Turtle Wax started planning its #reflectie program in February 2014."

Deady appeared to offer an olive branch via PRWeek, wishing "the folks at Dodo much success with their program in the UK".

However, Colbeck has claimed a ‘cease and desist’ legal letter from Turtle Wax’s lawyers Baker & McKenzie, received hours ago, is the first contact he has had.

Deady subsequently confirmed he did not contact Dodo, saying: "Why would I call the guys at Dodo when they fire off ridiculous accusatory emails to junior members of my team? Why wouldn't they call Turtle Wax direct and have a civil conversation about the situation?

"They really thought we saw their program and within one week lined up an entire campaign to copy it? Turtle Wax is one of the most respected and well-known brands in the world - we do things the right way." 

The legal letter demands that Dodo removes a reference from its Facebook page to Turtle Wax USA "ripping off" Dodo’s campaign.

It also demands Dodo cease and desist from using #reflectie, which Turtle Wax is claiming all rights to in the US, UK and EU.

It cites Turtle Wax’s application for a trademark for the term #reflectie in relation to vehicle cleaning and polishing preparations and to providing a website that gives users the ability to review and share various images pertaining to vehicles and provide input.

Trademark records prove that Turtle Wax applied for the trademark on 9 April in the US, three weeks before either campaign became public.

However, Colbeck questioned whether it is possible to trademark a hashtag and pointed to the first public use of it by Dodo Juice.

Before Colbeck received the letter, Accelerate PR director Joel Newman told PRWeek: "We carried out due diligence and searches before the launch of our competition to ensure that we were not unintentionally infringing another company’s intellectual property rights, and found nothing to suggest we were anything other than pioneers.

"If Zeno had done a simple search of major social media channels, they would have seen they were not ‘introducing’ the #reflectie at all, and were merely following in our footsteps.

"We are happy to share the #reflectie idea but object strongly to Turtle Wax’s claim of having ‘introduced’ it, when the global and public introduction was actually ours."

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