The Coca-Cola Company has been granted a preliminary trial date in June 2011 to challenge PepsiCo over its Trop50 juice packaging design, which Coca-Cola claims is too similar to that of its Simply juice range.
The trade-dress and patent infringement trial alleges that PepsiCo is trying to piggyback on the success of Coca-Cola’s billion-dollar Simply brand by confusing consumers with similar packaging, while diluting the quality of the Coke juice brand. District Court Judge Sim Lake said in Houston on Friday that the trial would begin on June 13.
Coca-Cola introduced its Simply juice line in 2001 with Simply Orange, and Simply Grapefruit and Simply Apple juices followed. The design is a carafe-style bottle with an oversized green cap.
PepsiCo started selling Trop50 stevia-sweetened orange juice in 2009, and introduced a redesign in August, which features a carafe-style bottle with a large green cap.
Coca-Cola has also asked for a permanent ban on the sale of Trop50 in its current packaging, due to be heard at the same time Judge Lake said.
PepsiCo has denied that there is any likelihood that consumers would confuse the Trop50 brand with Coke’s Simply range, and added that Coca-Cola has no protectable trade-dress rights.
Coca-Cola brought the case against PepsiCo in October over its low-calorie juice packaging. Lake told both companies’ lawyers on Friday that they should try to settle the case out of court, in order to avoid the expense of trial.
According to court papers filed by Coca-Cola, sales of its Simply range were about $650m in the period from 2001 to 2005, and grew to more than $2.4bn during the 2006 to 2009 period. The company estimated 2010 sales to be more than $1bn, and said that it has spent more than $160m marketing the Simply brand.
Meanwhile, PepsiCo says that Trop50 and associated brand extensions are growing by double-digit percentages.