Trade dress law might apply to bottles. This will have a significant impact on marketplace competition.
A food packaging company may have crossed the line with its fruit-juice packaging and infringed on Coca-Cola’s trademarks. Where that line actually is often causes lawsuit like this one, but behind these types of lawsuits is the desire to protect a well-known brand and not confuse consumers.
Johanna Foods of New Jersey filed a suit in federal court asking for a ruling that says it is not infringing on the trade dress and design patents for Coca-Cola’s Simply Orange brand juices packaging.
“While this may seem to many like a tempest in a teapot, these are important issues to Coco-Cola, which wants to ensure its trademarks (trade dress) are clearly recognizable to its customers. If someone uses a mark close to Coca-Cola’s and causes confusion, not only does Coca-Cola lose business, the consumer is cheated out of an original product,” said David Alden Erikson, a Los Angeles business litigation attorney. Mr. Erikson specializes in Los Angeles fashion law, Internet law, business litigation, trademark and copyright law.
A letter from Coca-Cola’s counsel warned the New Jersey-based company that other companies who had used the carafe-shaped container for their juices had been sued and if they persisted in using the same container, they could expect to land in court. Johanna uses an eerily similar bottle for its line of Nature’s Nectar and Tree Ripe juices, although the labels are different than the ones Coca-Cola uses. Johanna disputes Coke’s contention that the design is an indicator or origin and thus protected by trademark law.
“Counsel for Johanna states that the carafe shaped container is mostly a functional object and therefore can’t be inherently distinctive and that consumers aren’t very likely to be confused by using its containers as opposed to Coke’s,” Erikson said.
This will be an interesting case to watch, as Coke has deep pockets and can hang in there for a substantial amount of time to try and make a point. On the other hand, the court may just make a point of its own based on the interpretation of the functionality of the carafe-shaped bottle design.
To learn more about David Alden Erikson, Attorney at Law, visit http://www.daviderikson.com.