Bloomberg News reported a June 2011 trial date between The Coca-Cola Company and Pepsico for trademark and patent infringement (link here). The product in question is Pepsico’s Trop50 juices (pictured on the left), which The Coca-Cola Company claims has packaging copying their Simply juices. The Trop50 – a low-calorie line of juices which was introduced around the same time last year as the Tropicana packaging disaster, was in the newer packaging (ie. Tropicana brand name down the side of the label, glass of juice instead of straw in orange). Despite the newer packaging , Pepsico’s Tropicana unit ultimately decided to change up the format by converting from tetra pack carton boxes to plastic bottle packaging with a big green cap.
Coca-Cola Company lawyers said in a statement that the new packaging for the low-calorie Trop50 brand will “likely deceive consumers and dilute the quality” of Coke’s own brand of premium juices, called Simply. Another line from the their lawyers was, “PepsiCo chose packaging that closely mimics the distinctive and nonfunctional Simply trade dress and patented Simply closure, ostensibly to revitalize PepsiCo’s fledgling Trop50 brand.”
Do you consider the two different juice lines similar to one another? Coca-Cola’s Simply juices are pictured here on the right. I believe Coca-Cola has a strong case here, since the big green cap and the bottle’s shape are similar. Once you have the juice within the bottle filling up the clear space, the Trop50 could legitimately pass for a bottle of Simply Orange. It’s interesting to see that Tropicana has changed their packaging twice in the last two years. One would think that consistency is key for consumers to recognize your product and turn it into a regular repurchase. With the constant packaging changes in the marketplace, Tropicana risks having consumers confuse their juices with other brands of juices out there. And in a grocery store where consumers are looking for juices based on packaging and price, they will likely choose a different product if they don’t recognize Tropicana’s juices.
This is just adds another chapter to the list of lawsuits between the two beverage companies. BevWire last covered a lawsuit when Pepsico sued The Coca-Cola Company over sports drinks, where POWERade claimed to be the complete sports drink for rehydration. Not sure how this lawsuit will turn out, but my initial thoughts would be that The Coca-Cola Company wins this one due to the similarities between the two juice bottles. But I’m not a judge and I’ve been wrong a few times, so we’ll wait to find out in June 2011 to see who wins this one.