I don’t usually write ‘opinion’ pieces because it takes so much time to pen down thoughts these days (getting old, ha) but as a fellow creative, this was too infuriating not to post.
Malaysians will probably know of this company called Loob Holdings. They used to be the franchise holder for Chatime, the popular tea chain from Taiwan, but they got into a legal battle with the parent company last year and rebranded all their stores to Tealive. Even then, they were already embroiled in a controversy about copying someone else’s tagline word for word (read about the drama here).
The company that had their tagline ‘stolen’, Mutha Puaka, sent Loob Holdings a cease and desist letter, but Loob conveniently claimed that it was allll a coincidence, and since the phrase was not trademarked, I guess MP couldn’t do much about it. Ironically, the tagline was Never Fear The Strong – because Tealive was apparently branding itself as a victim of being ‘bullied’ by the large Chatime brand.
Now recently, another case has cropped up, this time by one copywriter Nabila Jalil, who shared her experience on FB about applying for a position at Loob Holdings. As you can see from the correspondence below, they put her through a ‘test’ to write some captions for a new product, a fruit slush called Yomie.
So far so good
Reps from Loob asking her to resubmit ‘for FB’.
And she did. And they seemed to like it because:
Note: They ain’t hiring her yet, but they want to use the tagline. Here it gets blurry coz I’m not sure if Nabila gave them the green light to use it on FB, but then…
Tada! Suddenly ‘FB’ became ‘printed on all store materials’.
Understandably, anyone would be pissed. Do you guys know how much companies pay for copywriters to come up a great tagline?
A lameass way of trying to weasel out of the situation. Eh hello, if tagging allows one to do whatever the hell they want, can I get a free drink from Tealive and then tag you guys as payment? And please lah, you have her email and phone number, how hard is it to ‘locate’ her FB and IG?
“The only way we can give you credit is on Facebook” what a load of fairy BS (no offense to fairies).
This is a prime example of companies disrespecting the intellectual rights of creatives, be it writers or designers. They think that we pull words/images/ideas out of our ass. Hello! ‘Exposure’ doesn’t cut it in a professional setting. In the real world, people die of exposure. If you, an employee from HR, waits for your salary to be given on time so that you can pay your bills and feed your family, so do writers and designers. A lot of us are already underpaid as it is.
And for a company to basically steal the tagline of a copywriter they have yet to hire is the ultimate in cheapness. Is your company so cheap that you have to resort to having interviews so you could ask your interviewees to come up with taglines, then steal the best one? Saves you the trouble of hiring an actual one and paying them, innit?
I’m not a legal person, but if Mutha Puaka’s case goes to show, there is probably little that one can do if the tagline isn’t registered as a trademark, and since Malaysia has notoriously loose copyright laws. Is Loob’s action illegal? Maybe, maybe not. Is it unethical ? Definitely. Disgusting, even. If a company can steal someone else’s ideas to save on a few bucks, what makes you think that they’d be ethical in prepping their products to proper safety standards? Anything to save a few bucks, eh?
And if your blood isn’t boiling at this point yet, look at their half-assed ‘apology’:
Bye Tealive. Haven’t really drank much of you for a long time now but I’m moving permanently to KOI. They taste better anyway, and they don’t try to steal taglines from poor copywriters going for interviews with your company. Kthxbai.