Discovery accuses Liberty of unlawfully using its Vitality brand

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South African insurer Discovery is accusing a rival of using its incentive program without permission, authorization Liberty Holdings says it doesn’t need.

Vitality offers its 1.9 million customers discounts and cash back on Discovery’s life-insurance and credit cards for exercising and buying healthy food. In May, Liberty launched its Wellness Bonus, which cuts premiums for clients who are part of a program like Vitality or Momentum Metropolitan Holdings's Multiply.

Discovery is asking the Johannesburg High Court to block Liberty from using Vitality, alleging that the competitor is making unlawful use of its intellectual property, said Discovery Life Chief Executive Officer Hylton Kallner.

Liberty denies any infringements, accusing Discovery in its court filings of attempting to stifle competition using “scare tactics.”

Liberty identified Vitality and Multiply for reference purposes only, said David Jewell, Liberty’s managing executive of retail solutions. Liberty’s clients are within their rights to “use their health status on wellness programs, to which they pay fees, to reduce their life-insurance premiums.”

While Momentum has no intention of pursuing legal action against Liberty, it is monitoring the situation, the Pretoria-based company said in an email.

“If you’re a Vitality diamond or gold member put it on your CV, put it on LinkedIn and put it on Tinder,” said Discovery Vitality CEO Dinesh Govender. “It’s called status. That doesn’t mean we have granted a competitor the right to market a product off the back of our work and innovation.”

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