The food and drink company is negotiating with the owner of Innocent Vitamins, an East Grinstead-based vitamins company founded by a single mum of two, to stop trading under the name ’Innocent’.
Innocent Vitamins filed a trademark application with the Intellectual Property Office on 15 February but its £6.99 supplements have been stocked in Waitrose since January.
Innocent Drinks has been in contact with Dawn Reid, owner of Innocent Vitamins, asking her to commit to a “respectable” deadline at which she will stop using the Innocent brand name.
Co-CEO of Innocent Drinks Richard Reed says customers have already been in contact, confused about the vitamin range.
He adds: “Innocent is our brand name, we have spent 12 years building up the ethos and goodwill of the business. It is not acceptable to have someone come along and start using our name, selling a health food-based product in supermarkets, which is so similar to our proposition.”
Reed says the company took precautions to trademark the name ’Innocent’ in several categories when it was founded in 1999 and the new vitamins business is in direct breach of its intellectual property.
In January, Innocent Drinks registered the ’Innocent’ name under ’class 05’, the category which includes food supplements – the same class Innocent Vitamins was registered under in February.
The Innocent Vitamins name is under ’new application’ status. Once it has been advertised in the Trade Mark Journal, oppositions can be formally filed with the Intellectual Property Office.
Reed says Innocent, in which Coca-Cola has a 58% stake, is giving Innocent Vitamins a “low-cost” solution to the disagreement by “respectfully” asking Reid to stop using the brand name rather than undertake further costly legal action.
Reid says she does not accept that Innocent Vitamins breaches the Innocent Drinks trademark, or that consumers confuse the two products.
She adds she is “very concerned that a drinks company is now seeking to gain a monopoly over a commonplace word like ’innocent’,” and that the dispute is reminiscent of a match between “David and Goliath”.
Read Lara O’Reilly’s analysis here