In response to efforts by Coca-Cola to enforce its design patents, Johanna Foods, Inc. filed a declaratory judgment complaint on September 21 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey against Coca-Cola, d/b/a Simply Orange Juice Company. According to the complaint, in December 2009, Coca-Cola sent Johanna a letter asserting their rights under trade dress law and under seven design patents relating to beverage containers. In that letter, Coca-Cola allegedly stated that it had filed suit against third parties to whom Johanna had previously supplied and/or licensed a carafe-shaped container design and that the third parties had “each agreed to cease use of the accused design in settlement of the action.” The complaint also stated the Coca-Cola sent an August 2010 letter to Johanna customer ALDI asserting federal and state trademark rights as well as design patent rights against the beverage packaging that Johanna sold to ALDI, again citing “previous successful efforts” against other third parties. In September 2010, Coca-Cola then allegedly sent another letter to Johanna, reviewing the previously stated enforcement efforts and threatening suit over Johanna’s supply of beverage containers to ALDI as well as Johanna’s use of its own beverage containers in its own Tree Ripe brand.

Johanna’s complaint asserts that Coca-Cola’s “previous successful efforts” resulted in confidential, out-of-court settlements and not adjudication on the merits of the cases. Johanna also states that Coca-Cola’s litigation threats may significantly harm Johanna’s business relationship with ALDI and its profits from its Tree Ripe brand. The complaint further notes that Johanna itself has design patents on both its Nature’s Nectar Bottle (for which ALDI is a customer) and its Tree Ripe Bottle.

Johanna brings eight causes of declaratory judgment of no infringement: one for no trade dress infringement, and seven for no infringement of design patents, one for each of Coca-Cola’s seven above-mentioned design patents. Johanna first argues that Coca-Cola has no valid trade dress rights in its Simply Orange bottles and that Johanna’s accused bottles do not infringe any valid trade dress rights of Coca-Cola’s because there is no likelihood of confusion. Regarding each of Coca-Cola’s seven design patents, Johanna’s complaint alleges that an ordinary observer would not believe that its bottles are the same as the patented designs, but that such an observer would notice substantial differences between the two. Johanna seeks declaratory judgment, court costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees on each of the eight claims.

Photographs of the accused products together with selected figures from the Johanna and Coca-Cola design patents are shown here.