Sephora, the widely-popular chain of cosmetic stores, is no doubt a familiar brand name. Riding on the coattails of this popular cosmetic chain is Malaysian brand, Sefarra.
Sefarra, which had its grand opening in Kelantan on October 18, is owned by local Malaysian influencer Farra Fareez. According to its official Facebook page, Sefarra branded itself as a makeup store that “sells various types of makeup tools” and “provides makeup services” at affordable prices.
Besides the brand name sounding suspiciously similar to that of Sephora, it came to public attention that the products Sefarra carries, as well as the packaging style of black-and-white striped paper bags, bears an uncanny resemblance to Sephora.
Furthermore, there have been reviews on their official Facebook page that some of their products appear to replicate the concept and ideas of other renowned international brands such as Dior and Chanel. One incident cited was Sefarra’s miniature perfume set, which was said to resemble global beauty brand, Chanel.
Netizens have taken to various social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to express their disdain, calling it an “act of plagiarism” and “copycat”.
Not the “first” in Malaysia
While Sefarra has garnered plenty of online backlash since its opening, this is not the first time where small Malaysian brands have been accused of mimicking internationally-renowned global brands.
The lipsticks and concealers carried by ANAS Cosmetics, which was established in August earlier this year, closely resembles that of the popular cosmetic company, NARS Cosmetics.
Similarly, DIDA lipsticks from Malaysia have said to bear a close resemblance to ColourPop Cosmetics’ Lippie Stix, a globally-recognised makeup brand.
Is it plagiarism?
According to Jonathan Bonsey, Creative and Managing director of The Bonsey Design Partnership, he mentioned that “successful brands are always at risk of being copied.”
Additionally, Lau Kong Cheen, Associate Director at A.S. Louken, highlighted that a brand with similar name and products that look visually similar is clearly not a case of pure coincidence.
He went on to mention that such marketing strategy, also known as “brand mimicking”, has a tendency to confuse consumers and mislead them to buy the imposter brand by accident.
Copyright laws in Singapore
Similar cases of riding on the coattails of another brand have also occurred in Singapore. In 2013, the owner behind The Connoisseur Concerto (TCC) was sued by Ferrero for infringing on the trade mark of Nutella with its promotion and sale of a coffee beverage under the brand name Nutello.
There are several ways in which a brand can prevent itself from being tangled in an unwanted situation of plagiarism and copyright issues.
One method is to ensure that the brand’s visuals and slogans are unique and distinct. Brands should avoid using common words and generic phrases that might unknowingly be similar to other brands.
Another method is to trademark the brand’s visuals and communicative messages such that it is protected by the intellectual property (IP) laws of the country.
In Singapore, there are several IP laws in place such as the Copyright Act and Patents Act. Infringements of these acts can result in hefty penalties such as fines of up to S$100,000 and/or a jail term up to a maximum of 5 years.