Nestle has launched legal action against its former distributor Cantarella Bros, claiming the Australian company is misleading consumers by selling Santa Vittoria mineral water.
Nestle, which sells Sanpellegrino sparkling mineral water, says Santa Vittoria looks too similar to its product and selling it breaches section 52 of the Trade Practices Act. Both mineral waters are in long-neck green glass bottles with seals, a wrap-around neck label and rectangular central label.
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But Cantarella Bros has been distributing its sparkling mineral water under the Santa Vittoria brand for 12 years, beginning three years after Nestle ended its 40-year distributorship relationship with Cantarella and started to distribute in Australia itself.
Paul Zawa, intellectual property partner at lawyers Minter Ellison, says it is significant that the local product has been on sale for so long.
“It would be interesting to know what – other than the market for bottled water becoming more lucrative – has occurred to have [Nestle] bringing the action now, given the amount of time that the other party has been distributing,” Zawa says.
“If you have allowed something to go on for 12 years, it may be difficult to claim that you have reputation in a green bottle with an Italian label.”
Cantarella Bros chief executive Les Schirato told The Australian Financial Review that the claims are ridiculous. “We’re an Australian company and we’ve built up this brand of mineral water and now export it all over the world. This is something we’ll certainly be defending.”
Nestle and Cantarella Bros, which owns Vittoria coffee, are also fighting over trademarks. Last year Nestle sought sole rights to an image of a cup of coffee and a red mug.