Beverage giant Coca-Cola has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Israel-based company SodaStream over their marketing campaign known as The Cage. The exhibit features waste cans and bottles that SodaStream employees have collected from dump sites and placed in a giant cage. It aims to show how many bottles and cans a family uses over the course of either three or five years and encourages people to make their own soda (using SodaStream, of course).
The legal action comes from Coca-Cola South Africa who state that an exhibit located in South O.R. Tambo International Airport infringes upon trademark rights and is derogatory in its advertising and as such, has grounds for possible legal action. However SodaStream have over 20 similar exhibits around the world, including touring variants that have shown up in Times Square, New York.
SodaStream are determined not to bow to legal pressure and talking to Forbes, CEO Daniel Birnbaum said: “It will take a lot more than a letter from a lawyer to shut me up.”
“We think it is absolutely ridiculous. 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.”
In an email to Forbes’ Caleb Melby, Birnbaum added: “We find it incredulous that Coke is now re-claiming ownership of the billions of bottles and cans that litter the planet with their trademarks. In that case, they should be sued in the World Court for all of the damage their garbage is causing.”
Coca-Cola have of course released an official statement saying: “Coca-Cola South Africa has registered its complaint in the interest of protecting Coca-Cola trademarks against any infringements in the South African market. Coca-Cola is a leader in recycling and sustainable packaging as demonstrated by our aggressive goal to collect the equivalent of 50 percent of the bottles and cans we sell globally by 2015.”
“Coca-Cola South Africa is a member and founder of PETCO, South Africa’s PET recycling company, and is involved in the collection and responsible disposal of our PET plastic bottle post-consumer consumption. It is also a partner of Collect-a-Can, which has one of the highest beverage can recovery rates in the world. In 2011, Coca-Cola South Africa launched PlantBottle packaging, which is PET plastic made from up to 30 percent plant material and remains 100% recyclable.”
If they were so supportive of recycling, then surely they’d approve of SodaStream’s exhibits? However it appears that financial motivation might be behind the legal action. SodaStream has slowly been increasing its share of the drinks market due to its campaigns on environmental sustainability and health. If Coca-Cola are successful, then the legal action could threatens SodaStream’s ability to communicate their environmental message.