Dis-Chem acts against ‘copycat’ rival Dis-Pharm

In a trademark battle that resembles that of David vs Goliath, pharmacy retailer Dis-Chem has approached the high court to bar upstart Dis-Pharm from styling itself around its brand.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed group, which is valued at around R30-billion, told the Joburg High Court that its trademark protection has been breached by the launch of Dis-Pharm, which may confuse consumers.

In an interview with Sunday World, Saul Saltzman, the executive director at Dis-Chem, said the company had a right to protect its well-known brand from being abused and nearly hijacked.

“It came to Dis-Chem’s attention late last year that an operation styling itself ‘Dis-Pharm’ was running a website and e-commerce platform, which presented almost exactly like the Dis-Chem website. We also established in March of this year that Dis-Pharm intends to open a store with signage that cribs the look and style of Dis-Chem branding and signage,” Saltzman said.

“Dis-Pharm clearly is attempting to pass itself off as being associated with the Dis-Chem Group, which it is not. They are also engaging in flagrant infringement of Dis-Chem’s registered trademarks. Dis-Chem sent a cease-and-desist notice, to which Dis-Pharm did not conform.”

The family-owned business was started by CEO Ivan Saltzman and his wife, MD Lynette, in 1978; and listed on the JSE in 2016. Saul, who is their son, was appointed to the board in 2016.

The Saltzman family opened its first retail pharmacy in Mondeor, south of Johannesburg. Today, the group has  206 Dis-Chem outlets around the country, 49 Medicare stores and 35 Baby City establishments.

Dis-Pharm did not respond to numerous requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Dis-Chem this week became the latest victim of the growing trend of cyber-attacks.

Dis-Chem revealed on Wednesday that a data breach of its systems saw almost 3.7 million Dis-Chem customers’ names, e-mail addresses and cellphone numbers compromised.

“Based on the categories of personal information impacted, there is a possibility that any impacted personal information may be used by the unauthorised party to commit further criminal activities, such as phishing attacks, e-mail compromises, social engineering and/or impersonation attempts,” Dis-Chem said.

“It was brought to our attention on 1 May 2022 that an unauthorised party had managed to gain access to the contents of the database. Upon being made aware of the incident, we immediately commenced an investigation into the matter to ensure that the appropriate steps were taken to prevent any further incidents.”

In March, credit reporting agency TransUnion South Africa said a hacker group was demanding a R225-million ransom for four terabytes of compromised data.  N4aughtysecTU breached TransUnion systems and accessed 54 million personal records of South
Africans.

 

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