Co-op faces legal action over launch

The Co-operative Group’s launch of an innovative dissolvable laundry powder sachet could be hit by a lawsuit from branded competitor Aquados, which alleges that the product infringes its patents.

The Co-op has again beaten laundry heavyweights Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Unilever with a second major product innovation in three years. But the launch has run into trouble as David Macauley, chief executive of Glasgow-based Aquados, warns that the retailer will face legal action if its product is similar to its powder product, also called Aquados.

Macauley says: “It would appear that the Co-op is in breach of our patents, which say we have the rights to all laundry preparations that use soluble film. Our patents are very robust and they will be hearing from our lawyers.”

A Co-op spokesman says that the brand, known as Powder Pods, will create a segment in the laundry category, as well as bridge the gap between the powder and liquid segments. The dissolvable sachets, which were developed by own-label maker Robert McBride, are made with a special film to prevent the powder sticking to the dissolvable bag.

An industry source says that P&G and Unilever are also expected to launch branded versions early next year. He says: “The industry is expecting powder sachets across the P&G ranges in January 2004, with Unilever following sometime after that.”

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