"False Promises and Stolen Dreams" – this is how the popular South African investigative television show, Carte Blanche, chose to describe the report into the Tammy Taylor Nails franchise in South Africa – detailing a controversial saga riddled with allegations of copyright and trademark infringement, the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit goods, and fraud.

The allegations may be juicy celebrity drama for some, but they carry serious consequences for Melany and Peet Viljoen from a legal perspective.

For consumers and nail enthusiasts worldwide, Tammy Taylor is a high-quality nail product and a brand that is synonymous with celebrities like Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian and Billie Eilish. Taylor opened her first nail salon in 1981, at age 18. Two years later, she launched her namesake product line, which has become a global player in the professional space.

Until recently, Melany and Peet Viljoen were regarded as the official licence holders of the Tammy Taylor brand in South Africa, but the brand's US lawyer, James McQueen, instructed the Viljoens to cease and desist from using the Tammy Taylor name as they are no longer licensees or distributors of products. In response, the Viljoens claim that Tammy Taylor is actually the one who is infringing on their trademarks.

What exactly is the law behind all these allegations of intellectual property infringement? In order for the Viljoen couple to open a Tammy Taylor store in South Africa, a master license agreement was concluded with Tammy Taylor US. A license agreement authorises the licensee to perform certain acts in relation to the intellectual property which is normally reserved for the proprietor of the intellectual property.

This master license agreement allowed Tammy Taylor Nails SA to use the intellectual property of Tammy Taylor US. This includes the name Tammy Taylor, the logo, the various nail products as well as the techniques and know-how specific to the Tammy Taylor brand. It is evident that without a license agreement, you would not be able to open a franchise in South Africa.

These licenses are therefore incredibly valuable and necessary in a franchise, which is why these allegations against Tammy Taylor SA are incredibly serious and could potentially ruin the franchise in South Africa, leaving franchise owners exposed. Not only does the lack of license agreement leave franchise owners vulnerable, but should these owners continue to use the name Tammy Taylor, the logo or any of the products without a license or authorisation from Tammy Taylor US, it will amount to trademark and copyright infringement.

The most controversial allegation made in the Carte Balance expose' was the claim that the Viljoens are manufacturing and distributing counterfeit goods through their various entities after their supply from the original manufacturer was cut off. Counterfeit goods are fraudulent imitations of a genuine products which are normally sold at a much cheaper price. Significantly, counterfeit goods may be incredibly dangerous as a manufacturer may take shortcuts in the production process or use materials that are of an inferior quality to that of the original product. This allegation has serious financial and criminal consequences should it be true. A first-time conviction of counterfeiting holds a fine of R5 000.00 per counterfeit good or imprisonment for a period of no longer than 3 years or, in some cases, even both.

These allegations should be troubling for the owners of a Tammy Taylor SA franchise and a cautionary tale for any person thinking of investing in a franchise. Tammy Taylor SA franchisees are encouraged to contact an intellectual property attorney for advice and a risk assessment.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.