At issue is Sodastream's collection of disposable cans and bottles, from a variety of beverage makers, and displaying them in promotional "cages" to demonstrate how much less waste is created by making your own soda or sparking water.
These cages have been used in more than 20 exhibits around the world, with a text reading "1 Family. 5 Years. 10,657 bottles and cans."
The letter from Coca-Cola's lawyers concludes that Sodastream is using "our client's trade marks in a manner intended to disparage them, while competing with our client's products...your conduct amounts to unlawful competition under the common law."
Sodastream CEO Daniel Birnbaum is rightly non-too-pleased:
If they claim to have rights to their garbage, then they should truly own their garbage, and clean it up. ... We find it incredulous that Coke is now re-claiming ownership of the billion of bottles and cans that litter the planet with their trademarks... they should be sued in the World Court for all of the damage their garbage is causing.
Here, here. Even if, just like in Sodastream's cages, it's not just Coke's bottles and cans that are the problem. You can't just single out Coke for being the problem here, it's an entire culture of disposability.
Ultimately it does seem like Coke wants it both ways: Disclaiming responsibility for ownership of cans and bottles when littering is concerned or there is a suggestion, as Lloyd has suggested many-a-time here on TreeHugger, that beverage manufacturers should be legally required to take back their bottles and cans, but then saying they own them, via intellectual property and trademarks, when the same waste product is used against them.
Even if the law comes down against Sodastream on this one—and I could see that happening—common sense clearly favors Sodastream, especially as Coke is not being singled out. Sodastream is holding all disposable beverage containers up to the same ridicule here. If Sodastream were saying something positive about all those cans no doubt Coca Cola wouldn't have a problem with it.