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Oil giant stole my promotion idea, alleges businessman

Oil giant stole my promotion idea, alleges businessman

East Anglian Daily Times

16 June 1999

East Anglian Daily Times, Wednesday June 16, 1999

Oil giant stole my promotion idea, alleges businessman

OIL-giant Shell’s successful Smart card customer loyalty scheme was “pinched” from a confidential idea put forward by the man behind many of its earlier promotions, a High Court judge heard yesterday.

In a David-and-Goliath legal battle, one-man think-tank John Donovan, 52, is .suing the petrol giant for millions of pounds over its alleged misuse of confidential information and its refusal to credit him as creator of the scheme.

Shell says the idea came from a different source and is counter-claiming damages against Suffolk man Mr Donovan’s company, Don Marketing, for breach of a confidentiality agreement.

Geoffrey Cox, counsel for Mr Donovan, told Mr Justice Laddie in London that Shell had approached him in 1989 to come up with ideas to “jazz up” its flagging CoIlect and Select free gift promotion and suggest a long term replacement. 

Mr Donovan, from Bradfield Combust near Bury St Edmunds, devised a joint loyalty card scheme under which Shell would join forces with a select consortium of other major retailers – all in different non-competing fields to avoid conflict of interest – so that customers could collect credit points and claim their free gifts far more quickly.

In 1990, said Mr Cox, Shell took an option to develop the plan in the future under usual terms of confidentiality which had governed its past dealings with Mr . Donovan, and in 1997 launched the Smart card, incorporating his ideas.

But when Mr Donovan stepped forward to claim payment for his contribution to the massively successful promotion, no money was forthcoming.

Shell’s witnesses seemed to have developed “corporate amnesia” about the information disclosed to them in 1990, said Mr Cox. “You may get the impression from those witnesses that Mr Donovan was treated to some extent as one of the general run of nuisances who would pester the company with information of no value,” he told the judge.

“In fact, Mr Donovan had a long, trusted and successful record with Shell as an adviser on promotions dating back to the early 1980s.” 

Mr Donovan’s evidence would show that his idea had been “pinched”, said Mr Cox.

The court hearing, set for five days, is the culmination of a long-running campaign by Mr Donovan and his 82-year-old father Alfred for a fair deal from Shell.

Oil giant stole my promotion idea, alleges businessman and its also non-profit sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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