Trading Standard officers raided the firm’s Pilkington Street address in the city’s Kenyon Business Park on 14 August 2018 and found almost 2,000 fake labels bearing the mark of Unilever’s 5L Comfort fabric conditioner range.
Unilever declined to comment, stating that the case was ongoing, however according to a report in the Bolton News the manufacturer did confirm that the labels were not genuine.
At an initial hearing on 19 August 2019, Bolton Magistrates Court heard that officers had found 500 labels each for Comfort’s Lily and Riceflower (pink), Pure hypoallergenic (white) and Outdoor Freshness (blue) products and 400 for its Sunshiny Days (yellow) product, the latter of which were being printed at the time of the visit.
At the subsequent trial on 13 November, Hot Print Design director Mohammed Faruk Ugharadar pleaded guilty to four Trade Mark Act offences relating to the four label designs and "with a view to gain for himself or with intent to cause loss for another, and without the consent of the proprietor, did apply a sign identical to, or likely to be mistaken for, a registered trade mark to material intended to be used for labelling or packaging goods".
It was accepted that the Ugharadar was not involved in the bottling or sale of the fabric conditioner, but it was noted that the labels marked as being hypoallergenic were a safety concern as the product the labels were intended for was unlikely to have been tested to ensure it was, in fact, hypoallergenic.
Taking the guilty plea into account, Ugharadar was handed down a community order of 120 hours unpaid work, a forfeiture and destruction order pertaining to the Comfort labels and ordered to pay £85 victim surcharge by the court.
Printweek spoke to Ugharadar who confirmed the charges and the guilty plea but declined to comment further.
A Bolton Trading Standards official told Printweek: “Customers have the right to know that the products they are buying are genuine and safe to use.
“Counterfeit operations like this undermine consumer confidence and potentially put the public at risk by disguising products that have not been properly tested.
“This kind of criminal activity damages legitimate businesses and our officers work hard to crack down on counterfeiting in all its forms.”