Legal experts warning over Pimm’s dispute

Diageo’s legal action against Sainsbury’s over the supermarket’s alleged copying of its Pimm’s brand could have “far-reaching” implications, say legal experts.

The drinks giant has issued legal proceedings against the retailer over an “intellectual property matter” related to Sainsbury’s Pitchers brand (pictured).

The supermarket has previously described its gin-based drink as its “own version of the UK’s favourite summer cocktail”.

Sainsbury’s says its customers are “savvy enough to know exactly what they’re buying, the clue is in the name, and we see no basis for such a claim”.

However, trademark experts say Diageo is likely to be concerned about Sainsbury’s “passing off” Pitchers as similar enough to Pimm’s to confuse the two brands in the minds of consumers.

Robert Hawley, partner at patent and trademark firm Mathys & Squire, says Diageo is probably trying to protect the £5m it invested in marketing the brand last year, which included a television advertisement starring comedian Alexander Armstrong.

He adds that if Diageo’s action is successful it will make supermarkets “sit back and look at how they brand lookalike products” through fear of similar legal cases being brought.

Nina Best, an expert in marketing law at Browne Jacobson, says that brand owners will be “watching this space very closely indeed”, adding that if Diageo is successful then it could encourage others to “come forward”.

However, Joel Barry, head of trademarks at Olswang, says all cases are different and the Pitchers case “is unlikely to inspire others to take action”.

Diageo says it would be “inappropriate” to comment further at this stage, while Sainsbury’s says that it will “vigorously defend” the allegations.

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