Coke and SodaStream Trash Each Other in Trademark War

waste management, trademark law, business, Coke, SodaStream, health, environment

After SodaStream erected a cage full of Coke’s trademark trash in South Africa’s OR Tambo International Airport, the 20th such installation built around the world as part of the Israeli company’s marketing campaign, the powerful soda giant pulled out the big guns and hired litigation lawyers Adams & Adams to demand its removal.

Coke’s lawyers claim that SodaStream, a competitor, is making unauthorized use of their trademark in order to promote their own product and that their potentially damaging advertising campaign exists in contravention of the Authority’s Code of Advertising Practice (ASA) and common law. But SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum refuses to back down. “It will take a lot more than a letter from a lawyer to shut me up,” he said – according to Forbes.

Trashing Coke

The SodaStream slogan depicted on the  airport cage full of coke cans and bottles (in addition to other brands) claims that families who buy their renewable product will spare 5,078 bottles and cans every three years. In five years, one family can save 10,657 cans and bottles, according to a sign attached to a cage full of trash in New York City.

By contrast, one SodaStream carbonator makes 60 or 110 liters, equivalent to 170 or 310 aluminum cans, according to the company’s literature. “When empty, the carbonator is refilled and reused, ready to make more fizzy and tasty soda whenever you want it.”

SodaStream also points out that whereas their product turns ordinary tap water into tasty flavored fizzy drinks (as though such a product is now a god-given right), bottled water companies sold 37 billion bottles in the United States in 2005.  “Bottled water wastes fossil fuels and water in production and transport, and when the water is drunk the bottles become a major source of waste,” the company claims.

Airport traffic and environmental awareness

But the campaign in South Africa has Coke worried, and so they should be. Between 2010 and 2011, nearly 19 million passengers traveled through the Johannesburg airport. That kind of exposure combined with increasing environmental awareness could be a lethal combination for Coke, which has established several waste-reduction campaigns in South Africa.

The lawyer’s letter demands that SodaStream not only remove “the cage,” but that they “undertake in writing to never use the company’s trademarks again or infringe on Coke’s advertising goodwill.

Despite having just 1% of Coke’s wealth and prestige, Birnbaum is staying the course.

“If they (Coke) claim to have rights to their garbage, then they should truly own their garbage, and clean it up. … We find it incredulous that Coke is now re-claiming ownership of the billion of bottles and cans that litter the planet with their trademarks… they should be sued in the World Court for all of the damage their garbage is causing, he said.

How green is SodaStream, really?

Meanwhile, it isn’t so clear that SodaStream’s environmental record is as sound as they would have the world believe. Our own editor-in-chief, Karin Kloosterman, says that “Sodastream has been around for years and is using the environment as a marketing tool. Most people I know buy a Sodastream for a friend’s wedding and the said machine goes out of use after the first canister of gas runs out.”

Daniel Birnbaum, invests in Seedo, Cannbit, was former CEO of Sodastream

It seems very unlikely that SodaStream will win this trademark war, but at the very least, the struggle draws attention to an ongoing debate: should beverage manufacturers be held responsible for reclaiming their waste, or is this up to the consumer?

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

More on Soda and the Environment:

Toxic Kosher Coke Banned During Passover

Heart Attacks in Kids for One or More Cokes a Day?

Vimto’s Moldy Soft Drink Recalled in Dubai

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9 thoughts on “Coke and SodaStream Trash Each Other in Trademark War”

  1. I should add – that I’d be surprised if he actually went out to buy the replacement gas canister.

  2. Honestly, I have seen more of these units hidden inside people’s kitchens cupboards with the dust and dishwashing detergent than those who actually use them. Replacement gas bottles are expensive and not readily available in most locations. I bought one for making my own homemade soda water (without the sugar). It doesn’t compare to bottled spring water. Sorry. The taste is not the same. The sodastream bubbles are big and lackluster, and the unit looks ridiculous in a modern kitchen. I still buy carbonated mineral water like San Pelegrino for a treat and I don’t regret giving my $85 Sodastream away to my step son.

  3. Aviva Weisgal says:

    This in from a Google: The plastic Sodastream bottles are BPA free and all components can be recycled. They cannot be placed in hot water or the dishwasher and they cannot be used indefinitely; my bottles expire in 3 years. The FAQ’s on their website say that the reason the bottles cannot be used indefinitely is that they experience a lot of force with the carbonation and shouldn’t be used for longer than the date on them. I will admit that I don’t care for the giant expiration dates emblazoned across the bottles since I have been carrying them to work and displaying them on my desk. They do look a little odd and I’ve been questioned about them several times by curious coworkers.

    If you have concerns about using plastic bottles Sodastream has a model, The Penguin that uses glass bottles which costs $199.95

  4. Aviva Weisgal says:

    My issue with SodaStream is that the production plant is in the Occupied Territories, they might not be the best employers, with a record of revolving door employment of Palestinians, and thus no job security for them, but Coca-Cola’s record is much more murky!

  5. Aviva Weisgal says:

    The secret ingredient in Coke must still be cocaine, it has addicted so many worldwide!
    They have a terrible record in many third world countries, breaking strikes, violence against trade union reps., not mention the pollution they create to groundwater!
    The product has no nutritional value, and is responsible for obesity in countries that never had that issue in the past.

  6. Dudley says:

    Of course Sodastream bottles are recyclable, after you have used them for up to 3 years. Even if not then to throw away one plastic bottle after 3 years compared to the 3,000 the average person uses, is slightly better :).

    However, did doesn’t seem that Coke has a case or argument or a leg to stand on here, Their reaction is to say they striving to reach 50% recycling levels in the future. Wishful thinking seeing as though average recycling rates are around 25%. If they even achieve this does that say that the other 50% (probably 500 million bottles a day) will land up in the seas and landfills. How will this help stop plastic waste and pollution.

  7. Mike says:

    @Tami———–Tami, that is the most lame statement I think I’ve ever seen on these forums. That statement is equivelent to a fart in a crowded elevator. You say: “One could EASILY argue that although the number of aluminum………….”. Well, OK, Tami. Here is your stage. You’ve got complete control of the floor right now. Suppose that YOU go ahead and “easily argue” your point to the rest of us. Suppose you go ahead and show us some numbers of Soad Stream’s environmental impact as compared to Coke’s. Here is your golden opportunity to show the rest of the forum reading world that you are NOT the bonehead that your statements imply that you are.

  8. Tami says:

    One could also easily argue that although the number of aluminum cans and plastic bottles they “save”, at least those containers are recyclable. SodaStream’s bottles are not recyclable and are, therefore, more problematic environmentally.

  9. Daniel says:

    Of course SodaStream is an envirnmental no brainer. I have one and it almost entirely eliminated the piles of bottles and cash we used to have. Your “expert” Karin Kloosterman, is wrong. If people werent using their SodaStream, how could they have gazillians of sales of gas exchanges and flavor concentrates. I read in their financial reports that they sold around 30 million of those last year and made more than 2 billion cans worth of soda last year. And they’re growing like crazy, now in our Walmart. They are for real. Coke should be ashamed for trying to shut them up.

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