Unilever SA has written to an Alexandra township street vendor who posted a video on social media accusing it of stealing his intellectual property, says a Daily Dispatch Weekend Edition report.

In the three-page letter, Unilever’s marketing legal counsel, Amanda Bandle, demands that Thando Tema remove the video from his Instagram account.

The video is titled ‘Ignite Joe Public stole our idea’ and shows two packets of Knorr Cup-a-Soup – a 50g packet and a 22g packet. He says it was his idea to make a smaller packet and sell it cheaper to the lower end of the market. Tema accused both Unilever and Joe Public United of stealing the concept.

Joe Public confirmed that Tema made a presentation in 2014, but denied using his idea.

Bandle says in the letter: ‘The impression that is created in the video on Instagram is harmful to the goodwill and reputation of Unilever and the Knorr brand of products as it creates the incorrect impression that Unilever is involved in some form of unlawful activity. I would appreciate it if you could confirm that you have removed the video from Instagram as soon as possible.’

Tema is standing by his claim, saying he started researching the concept in 2014: ‘In 2015, I pitched my idea to a company (Joe Public) … and was promised the pitch would be escalated directly to Unilever/Knorr,’ Tema claimed, according to the Daily Dispatch Weekend Edition report.

He said he was shocked when he saw Knorr implementing the idea of smaller soup packets in townships this year.

‘I tried contacting Joe Public United to get an explanation as to what happened to my idea. I couldn’t go to Unilever as they are based in Durban and I don’t have money to travel. I decided to place that video on Instagram after numerous attempts to contact the company,’ Tema claimed.

He was adamant that he wanted compensation.

‘I will only take that video off if I am compensated for my idea,’ he said.

Intellectual property practitioner Janusz Luterek said Tema had no registered patent or registered design right for the packaging. He said a new invention needed to be patented, or if the new idea was the shape or configuration of packaging, then a registered design could be applied for.

‘In the present matter it would be very difficult to prove exactly what was shown by Tema and to whom,’ Luterek is quoted as saying.

Full Daily Dispatch Weekend Edition report (subscription needed)