Frucor and Coke in a legal stoush over corporate colour

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Two massive beverage brands are in a bitter legal battle in Australia over a special shade of green. Frucor Beverages is attempting to trademark the green it uses on its products – especially the V energy drink – which sparked a legal fight-back from the Coca-Cola Company.

The V makers want to own the shade, Pantone 376C, in a dispute which is now heading to Australia’s Federal Court after Coca-Cola successfully blocked the move.

It reminds us of a similar legal stoush some years ago when Cadbury and Darrell Lea were involved in a long-running dispute over a certain shade of purple which Cadbury eventually won.

Originally a small Kiwi operation, Frucor’s application to IP Australia, first made in 2012, would have stopped the use of the green on other energy drinks.

Coca-Cola objected on the grounds that Pantone 376C did not distinguish V because other soft drinks already used similar colours, including its own “Green Storm” variety of Mother energy drink.

It also pointed out that Frucor’s initial bid was “fatally flawed” because it mistakenly attached the wrong shade of green to the trademark application.

Frucor responded with a survey that said 48 percent of those asked associated green with the V energy drink, followed by 10 percent saying Sprite and 9 percent naming Gatorade.

But Michael Kirov, Delegate of the Registrar of Trade Marks, agreed with Coca-Cola that consumers would not perceive Pantone 376C as being unique to V and rejected Frucor’s application.

They’re now off to the Federal Court where Frucor is asking for that decision to be overturned.

Some back ground on Frucor: It started in the early 60s as a small New Zealand juice business and has grown over the years to a leading Australasian drinks company. Since 2009 Frucor has been wholly owned by the Japanese company, Suntory Group. Products under the Frucor banner include the V energy drink, Just Juice, McCoy, Simply Squeezed, H2Go, Pepsi, Mountain Dew and 7Up.

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