Fast moving consumer goods company Procter & Gamble has filed a lawsuit against former partner Coca-Cola to stop the Minute Maid unit from using its technology for calcium-enriched orange juice, reports Bloomberg.
Procter & Gamble, which previously planned to set up a joint venture with Coca-Cola, is seeking an injunction to halt the use of company patents and unspecified monetary damages.
Minute Maid spokesman Dan Schafer said the lawsuit was "totally without merit."
The technology for calcium-supplemented drinks has been licensed by Procter & Gamble to PepsiCo unit Tropicana Products. Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble collaborated from February to September last year before the drinks manufacturer ended the $4 billion venture, which its investors said favoured the household-goods maker, according to the report.
"Relations have cooled," said Daniel Popowics, analyst with Fifth Third Bank, whose $34 billion in assets include 10 million Procter & Gamble shares. He added: "I don't think this is about ill will. It's not just tit for tat."
Minute Maid has been producing orange juice with calcium since 1987 and Schafer claimed it "uses different ingredients than theirs," referring to the Procter & Gamble product, Sunny Delight juice.
Mike Griffith, president of Procter & Gamble's global beverages, said: "P&G is firmly committed to protecting its proprietary technologies and will continue to take action to protect those technologies."
For the lawsuit to succeed, Procter & Gamble must show that the specific technologies in its patent were used, a consultant said.
"They must prove that it is not vague and must prove that it was theft," said Tom Pirko, president of BevMark.
According to Beverage Digest, Tropicana is the market leader with 35 per cent of the $4.17 billion in sales of refrigerated juice in US supermarkets last year. Minute Maid had 18 per cent of sales.