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.

Latest from Marketing Week

NOT REGISTERED? IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and opinion that will help you do your job better.

Register and receive the best content from the only UK title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work. The more we know about our visitors, the better and more relevant content we can provide for them. And, yes, knowing our audience better helps us find commercial partners too. Don't worry, we won't share your information with other parties, unless you give us permission to do so.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team (PPA Digital Brand of the Year) ask the big questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES

From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we are your guide.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3711 or email subscriptions@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here