Coca-Cola, PepsiCo Infringement Trial Set for June
Coca-Cola Co. received a June trial date for its lawsuit claiming that PepsiCo Inc.’s Trop50 brand of fruit juices copies the patented and trademarked look of Coca-Cola’s billion-dollar Simply juice line.
The trade-dress and patent infringement trial will begin June 13, U.S. District Judge Sim Lake said today in Houston. Coca-Cola’s request to permanently bar the sale of Trop50 in its current packaging will be heard at the same time, Lake said.
“The rules allow the court to consolidate a preliminary injunction hearing with trial on the merits,” Lake said at a scheduling hearing. “It makes sense to try this case once and only once. And that’s going to be before a jury.”
Coca-Cola sued PepsiCo in October claiming 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.
“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,” Coca-Cola’s lawyers said in court papers.
“Coke has no protectable trade-dress rights,” PepsiCo lawyers said in a court filing. “Nor is there any likelihood of confusion between Trop50 and the Simply juice products.”
Lake told lawyers for Coca-Cola and PepsiCo that they should try to settle the dispute out of court to avoid the expense of trial.
Timothy Durst, a lawyer for Purchase, New York-based PepsiCo, told the judge that the parties would be “revisiting opportunities for mediation in January.”
Lawyers for PepsiCo and Atlanta-based Coca-Cola declined to comment after the 20-minute hearing.
Coca-Cola introduced its Simply line in 2001 with Simply Orange. Simply Grapefruit and other varieties followed. The design is carafe-style with an oversized cap or closure.
PepsiCo began selling the Trop50 line in 2009. In August, it introduced the new design, which is a clear plastic carafe- style bottle with a large cap.
Sales of the Simply line grew from $650 million during the period from 2001 to 2005 to more than $2.4 billion from 2006 to 2009, Coca-Cola said in court papers. It estimates sales this year at more than $1 billion. Coca-Cola said it has spent more than $160 million marketing the brand.
The Simply line is managed by Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid unit, based in Sugar Land, Texas.
PepsiCo rose 22 cents, or 0.33 percent, to $65.97 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Coca-Cola climbed 36 cents, or 0.55 percent, to $65.70.
The case is Coca-Cola Co. v. PepsiCo Inc., 10-04184, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).
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