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P&G, Coca-Cola resolve calcium patent dispute

By Jess Halliday , 06-Apr-2006

Coca-Cola can continue selling orange juice fortified with calcium, after having settled with Procter and Gamble over a patent infringement lawsuit a development that opens the way forpotential collaborations in the future.

P&G launched a lawsuit against Coca-Cola in 2002, not long after the drinks giant withdrew from a $4 billion joint venture that might have united Minute Maid with the Cincincatti-based company's Sunny Delight brand.

Coca-Cola started selling calcium-fortified orange juice in 1987, and it was alleged that the technology being used in its Minute Maid Premium Calcium Rich Home Squeezed Style Orange Juice and Minute Maid Premium Calcium Original Orange Juice was the same as that licensed by P&G exclusively, at that time, to PepsiCo for its rival Tropicana product.

 

When the lawsuit was filed, analysts went on the record to say they did not believe it was a tit for tat response to Coca-Cola's withdrawal, but that relations between the two companies had definitely cooled.

 

In the intervening period Coca-Cola did not remove the Minute Maid drink from the market, and non-carbonated drinks have played an increasingly important role for the company that is best known for its eponymous fizzy drink.

 

In 2005 the company reported double-digit growth for its non-carbonated drinks, including Minute Maid, Dasani water and the Powerade sports drinks, whilst overall profits rose only 0.5 percent to $4.87 bn.

 

The two companies have also settled over Coca-Cola's use of P&G's patented preservation technology in certain non-carbonated beverages - an agreement that gives Coca-Cola the green light to use it.

 

A Coca-Cola spokesperson declined to disclose to NutraIngredients-USA.com whether the settlement is financial in nature, but a joint statement issued by the companies gave a tantalising hint that relations are thawing, and the two companies could work closely together in the future.

 

"We realized there are clear opportunities for our two great companies to collaborate, and this settlement is an example of the cooperative mindset we hope to build upon," said Sandy Douglas, senior VP and chief customer officer at Coca-Cola.

 

Beyond fortification, Coca-Cola is known to be pursuing the attractive functional beverage market and is seeking EU approval for a new juice drink containing cholesterol-lowering plant sterols.

 

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