Photographer: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Bloomberg

Coke Falls Flat at Court With EU Trademark Bid for Bottle Shape

  • New version is `like the majority of bottles,' EU judges say
  • Coca-Cola sees bottle as `natural evolution' of iconic design

Coca-Cola Co.’s latest bid to win European Union trademark protection for a new version of its iconic bottle fell flat as EU judges said its curvaceous design wasn’t distinctive enough.

The world’s biggest soft-drink company sought to convince the EU General Court in Luxembourg that consumers would see it as a “natural evolution” of the earlier shape loved by designers and artists from Andy Warhol to Salvador Dali.

But the court ruled on Wednesday that the shape is “a bottle like the majority of bottles on the market.” It’s a “mere variant of the shape and packaging” of such products “which will not enable the average consumer to distinguish” this shape from others.

Shape trademarks aren’t easy to get. The EU courts in past cases have set clear rules that for a shape to get intellectual property protection, owners must prove that consumers can recognize the product exclusively by that characteristic, and not in combination with a logo or another sign.

Coca-Cola “is disappointed with the result and considering whether to pursue this further to the Court of Justice,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.

Coca-Cola has been trying since 2011 to get an EU trademark for the bottle shape, whether made out of glass, metal or plastic. The bloc’s trademark office based in Alicante, Spain, in 2014 decided the shape lacked any “distinctive character.”

Amid its trademark battle, the beverage giant is offloading its bottling operations to focus on its core business: selling the concentrate that’s used to make drinks. The Atlanta-based company announced this month that it will accelerate the initiative, which is now due to be completed by the end of 2017.

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