A company known as Boost Sports Africa has instructed its lawyers to issue summons against the South African Breweries (SAB) Limited for allegedly using its concept to conduct a soccer competition where fans will be able to select players they want to see competing on the field in a derby between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs that will be played next Saturday (July 30).
Boost Sports Africa claims that the SAB Carling Black Label's "Be The Coach Event" is its concept which it pitched to SAB in 2006 titled "Fan's Challenge Sport". Boost Sports claims it presented the concept to SAB on a confidential basis. It said SAB advised Boost Sports that although the brewer liked the concept, it did not want to make any binding commitments at the time.
"Our client has established that SAB is now conducting an event the same as the concept in breach of our client's rights," attorneys for Boost Sports Africa, Spoor & Fisher, said in a letter to SAB dated June 1. They also demanded that SAB make an undertaking that it would not be conducting the event as it was in breach of Boost Sports Africa's rights to the concept, or alternatively to enter into a written licence agreement with Boost Sports Africa in terms of which SAB would pay Boost Sports Africa 15% of the revenue required to conduct the event.
"The 15% is the is the basis upon which our client would have licensed SAB to use the concept."
However, SAB replied that the sporting concept that was in dispute was disclosed in a patent that significantly pre-dated Boost Sports Africa's contact with SAB.
"Your client did not make any disclosure of its system to our client because our client would not sign a confidentiality agreement. It simply informed our client, in a vaguely worded document that was clearly intended to avoid disclosure of the actual concept, that it had an interactive system for any team sports. This was at a time when interactive systems for team sports were already widely known," SAB's lawyers Adams & Adams said in a letter dated July 20.
Jed Webber, who represents Boost Sports Africa, said if his company was not convinced that SAB had used its concept that was pitched to it in confidence, Boost would not be instigating legal action against them.
However, Mr Webber said his company would not stop the event from taking place.
"No, football and sport in general is much bigger and more important than any company and this event is for all the fans. We won't ruin it for them. We will deal with it through the courts," Mr Webber said.
However, SAB on Friday said it had received a number of claims on the concept behind the Carling Black Label "Be the Coach" campaign since its launch in May this year, the latest of which is from an organisation called Boost Sports Africa.
"While SAB fully supports the rights and endeavours of entrepreneurs throughout SA, the company rejects the assertion that it has unlawfully appropriated material presented to it in correspondence for commercial gain. SAB has on record evidence of a prior patent that was lodged and registered in the US almost a decade ago which puts paid to the claim that the idea was originally created or owned by Boost Sports Africa or Mr Webber. SAB has already rejected the other parties that have also tried to claim this concept at theirs," SAB spokeswoman Robyn Chalmers said.
Ms Chalmers said SAB was regularly contacted by individuals and companies wanting to sell what they believed to be innovative marketing concepts and executions.
"Unfortunately, the majority of these are often unsolicited and unsuitable. SAB does not normally agree to look at them and those that are considered are usually declined for a number of reasons including a lack of alignment with our strategic objectives, or the category in which we operate."
She said at the time Boost Sports Africa approached SAB, the concept was not new.
"At the time various reality television programmes employed similar mechanics, including Idols and Big Brother. In addition, millions of people participated in a similar fantasy sports game internationally."