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Sales Promotion Magazine: Shell in legal row

Sales Promotion Magazine

May 1998

Shell in legal row

SP agency’s claims over Smart Card cause troubled water for oil company

A promotional agency is suing Shell (UK) for allegedly breaching copyright on the concept idea Shell used to create its multipartner Smart Card loyalty scheme.

The allegation follows two previously unpublished out- of-court settlements which were kept secret as part of the agreement reached by the two sides.

The legal dispute between Shell and Don Marketing could delay the card programme even further – its launch was originally planned for the end of last year before partners failed to agree on a date.

The High Court writ against Shell was issued on 16 April, 13 months after Don Marketing first brought the claim to Shell’s attention, when Shell agreed to supply Don Marketing with a detailed account of the origin of the SMART concept.

During the subsequent months, both parties have assembled evidence and interviewed witnesses, yet Shell have allegedly been unable to name the creator of the concept, instead implying that the SMART scheme evolved from Shell’s Collect & Select voucher programmes.

Don Marketing claims that evidence shows that the original concept for the card was devised in response to a specific brief from Shell. A different agency was subsequently briefed to produce a scheme which replicated Don Marketing’s proposals.

Two independent witnesses – loyalty card expert Professor Steve Worthington and card manufacturer David Christian, are backing the claim that Don Marketing’s confidential proposal to Shell laid the foundation stones for the current Shell Smart Card scheme.

“Any impartial assessment of the evidence would show that the case is indefensible on Shell’s part,” says Don Marketing managing director John Donovan. “This is a matter of principle. One of the largest companies in the world shouldn’t need to steal ideas from promotional agencies.

“Quite apart from the cost to us – which has already exceeded £40,000 – and the effect this is having on day-to-day business, there are matters such as the two ISP Gold Awards, which were awarded to Option One for Shell’s existing Smart Card scheme.”

Despite the previous settlements becoming public, a statement issued by Shell states that “the claim has been carefully investigated”, but concludes that “Shell UK is satisfied that it is entirely without substance … we intend to fight [John Donovan’s l claims vigourously in court.”

Shell in legal row (Original Article)

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