Just who has the right to put Poo on their product labels? A federal court may be about to decide now that tiny Poo-Pourri has sued global packaged-goods giant RB (a.k.a. Reckitt Benckiser) for copyright and trademark infringement over its launch of V.I. Poo, a similarly styled toilet-freshening spray.
A complaint filed March 8 in U.S. District Court in North Texas says RB has "slavishly copied Poo-Pourri's copyrighted advertising materials," including its famous "Girl's
"Defendant, a distant No. 2 in this market, hopes to capitalize on Poo-Pourri's hard-earned success," according to the complaint from Scentsible. An RB spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to phone and email requests for comment.
The complaint includes YouTube links to a 60-second V.I. Poo ad in four languages that went up Feb. 29, including an English version, which has since been removed by the user, according to YouTube. That may point to an RB defense, since the product also doesn't appear to be sold in the U.S. yet, though RB has filed U.S. trademark applications for the brand and related scents. It's not clear if U.S. trademark law or other statues cited by Poo-Pourri will apply to British RB if its rival Poo product never actually makes it to the U.S.
Scentisible originally found out about the RB product from distributors in the Netherlands. "And we didn't think much about it until we had people on our social and calling us asking if we had sold out to Air Wick [an RB brand] because they had seen the commercial," said Suzy Batiz, CEO of Scentsible, in an interview.
"This is not about stifling creativity," Ms. Batiz said. "This is about protecting the creativity we've used to build an iconic brand. It's not fair for such a large company to come in and copy what we've done when they have the resources to create their own brand and own image."
RB reported global sales of nearly $13 billion last year, while Ms. Batiz said Scentsible had sales of under $40 million.
Poo-Pourri is seeking an injunction halting the V.I. Poo rollout, plus treble damages and treble RB's profits from the product in addition to legal costs.
Without the English version available, something may be lost in translation. But below is a French version of the V.I. Poo video.