Home » Innovation or Imitation: Intellectual property lessons from beverage industry cases

Written by: Rachel Gallacher

What has the beverage industry taught us about Intellectual Property and marketing ethics?

In an era marked by innovation and rapid product development, businesses often find themselves in the midst of intense competition and ethical boundaries. As the recent controversies in the beverage industry demonstrate, understanding and respecting Marketing and Intellectual Property (IP) Laws is vital for businesses striving for success, while avoiding legal entanglements.

The “Hard Solo” beverage controversy has ignited discussions about the thin line between innovation and imitation. The striking resemblance between the new alcoholic beverage and the original, non-alcoholic Solo, serves as a vivid reminder to businesses to diligently navigate IP and Marketing laws. This case underscores the crucial importance of safeguarding originality while ensuring compliance with legal and ethical boundaries.


Crafting a new product

When creating a new product, navigating Marketing Laws is paramount. Adhering to consumer protection, Intellectual Property, and advertising regulations ensures a lawful launch. Equally vital is the creation of meticulous contracts. Solid contracts define collaboration terms, IP ownership, distribution channels, and liability allocation. They pre-empt disputes, safeguard confidential information, and outline remedies. In the evolving landscape of product development, harmonising legal compliance with strategic innovation is imperative.

Previous Cases

NurtientWater Pty Ltd vs Baco Pty Ltd

One need only look at past cases in the beverage industry to understand the significance of IP protection. For instance, the high-profile dispute between NutrientWater Pty Ltd (NW) and Baco Pty Ltd (Baco) serves as a pertinent reminder of the potential consequences of infringing upon IP rights. NW accused Baco of imitating its product packaging, alleging passing off and misleading conduct. The court’s decision hinged on the critical factor of consumer confusion, reinforcing the need for clear differentiators in product design to avoid potential legal challenges.

Pub Squash vs. Cadbury Schweppes Pty Ltd

Another case that resonates is the Pub Squash case, where Cadbury Schweppes Pty Ltd took action against a competitor that attempted to capitalise on the success of the SOLO brand. Despite similarities in packaging and advertising, the court ruled in favour of the competitor, emphasising that sufficient differentiation can mitigate the risk of consumer confusion and IP infringement.

IP Protection

While businesses are encouraged to push boundaries and create unique products, they must also be vigilant about respecting the intellectual property of others. Here are some key considerations for businesses operating in a competitive market:


  • Originality Matters: Creating distinctive products and packaging can provide a strong defence against potential IP claims. Building a unique brand identity helps establish a loyal customer base and safeguards against accusations of copying.
  • Research and Due Diligence: Before launching a new product, conduct thorough research to ensure your idea does not infringe upon existing IP rights. This includes trademarks, copyrights, and patents that might cover various aspects of your product.
  • Consult Legal Experts: Seeking legal advice before launching a new product can be a proactive step in avoiding potential IP disputes. Legal experts can help identify potential risks and provide guidance on how to mitigate them.
  • Fair Use and Parody: While respecting IP rights is crucial, there are instances where fair use and parody might come into play. Understanding these concepts and their applicability to your situation can help strike a balance between creativity and legal compliance.
  • Regular IP Audits: Conduct periodic audits of your products, branding, and marketing materials to ensure they remain compliant with IP laws. This can help identify potential issues early and prevent costly legal battles down the line.
  • Global Considerations: If your business operates on an international scale, remember that IP laws vary from one jurisdiction to another. It’s essential to understand and comply with the regulations of each market you operate in.
What Now?

In the modern business landscape, where ideas can quickly transform into marketable products, understanding and respecting IP laws is not just a legal obligation, but a strategic imperative. The lessons from previous IP cases in the beverage industry serve as a compelling reminder that a proactive approach to IP protection can ensure a business’s longevity and reputation while avoiding costly legal disputes.

If you are concerned about Marketing or IP Laws surrounding your new products or services, contact your professionals at Greenhalgh Pickard for tailored advice. With an integrated team of Commercial and Litigation Solicitors, you can ensure your products are a success.



The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice or substitute for the advice of a professional. This information does not consider your personal circumstances and may not reflect the most current legal developments. Should you need advice, please contact our firm for targeted information relating to personal your situation.