New SodaStream ploy enrages Coke

An exhibit showing thousands of empty cans and bottles has Coca-Cola claiming copyright infringement and derogatory advertising.

By Kim Peterson Jun 18, 2012 2:46PM
A display of empty cans and bottles in South Africa has upset Coca-Cola (KO), and now the company is taking legal action to have it removed.

What's got Coke all worked up? The exhibit belongs to SodaStream (SODA) and shows how many bottles and cans the average family uses in several years. The exhibit is a glass cage filled with thousands of empty bottles, including some from Coca-Cola.

SodaStream is using the display to present itself as an environmentally friendly alternative to bottled and canned beverages. Its machine produces soda by the glass and doesn't rely on bottles or other containers. The company says its machine saves the average family from using 2,000 bottles and cans a year.

SodaStream has taken the exhibit, which it calls "the cage," to New York and other cities, but the display in South Africa's O.R. Tambo International Airport is what drew a cease-and-desist letter from Coke, Forbes reports. Coke's attorneys were reportedly concerned about derogatory advertising and trademark infringement.

SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum isn't backing down. "We think it is absolutely ridiculous," Birnbaum said, according to Forbes. "If they claim to have rights to their garbage, then they should truly own their garbage and clean it up. Instead of getting a thank-you for cleaning up, we're getting a lawyer's letter."

You can learn more about SodaStream in the following video.

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Coke's action has drawn scorn from some observers. One writer on the AllAfrica website called the company a crybaby. "If Coca-Cola had just given this situation a tiny bit of thought before getting all steamed up, they would have calculated that of the thousands of people who pass through OR Tambo, not everyone would have noticed the exhibit and only a tiny number would have noticed the Coke, Fanta and Sprite bottles," Chris Moerdyk wrote.

A spokeswoman from Coca-Cola's South African operations, Coca-Cola SA, said, "Our interest is to protect all trademarks registered to Coca-Cola in this country against any infringements in the SA markets," according to the Sowetan Live site.

SodaStream couldn't pay for the kind of publicity Coke's actions are now bringing to its products. The cease-and-desist letter is now giving international attention to an exhibit that would normally have an insignificant impact.

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Tags: KOSODA
1Comment
Jun 22, 2012 11:34AM
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You can view the letter from Coca-Cola to SodaStream by searching Google for "The letter from Coca-Cola's Lawyer". I would post the direct link here, but it won't let me. It's on imgur.com
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