A Barcelona court has ruled that Coca Cola and its distributors do not have the rights to import and sell British-made Schweppes tonic water in Spain – meaning the British product will not be sold in the country.
The Provincial Court of Barcelona has ruled that Japanese company Suntory has the exclusive right to make and distribute Schweppes tonic water in Spain, prohibiting Red Paralela, who import and distribute the British-made version of the product for Coca-Cola, from doing so in Spain.
Local media report the ruling, which rectifies a previous decision from the Commercial Court No 8 in Barcelona, effectively prohibits the importation of British Schweppes tonic water and other British-made Schweppes products into Spain. This is because only Suntory, who do not have the rights to distribute British-made Schweppes products, now have the rights to distribute Schweppes in Spain.
The court argued that the Schweppes brand in Spain, and some other countries, is owned by Schweppes Suntory Espana, while in other countries such as the UK, it is owned by Coca-Cola after the original owner Cadbury-Schweppes sold it to the American beverage powerhouse.
Cadbury, which was later taken over by Suntory, maintained ownership of the Schweppes brand in Spain and other countries. The court has therefore ruled that only Suntory has the right to distribute the product in Spain. Suntory also owns other drinks brands such as Ribena and Lucozade.
The court ruled that Barcelona-based Red Paralela must pay Suntory 293,480 EUR (266,729 GBP) in compensation, equivalent to five percent of the 5.9 million EUR (5.36 million GBP) Red Paralela made by selling 17.3 million bottles of British Schweppes tonic water in Spain between 2009 and 2014.
The case began in 2014 when Suntory filed a lawsuit against Red Paralela for selling tonic water made in the UK by Coca-Cola in Spain. Red Paralela argued that as they had the rights from Coca-Cola to distribute the product in the UK, they had the right to distribute it throughout Europe, but the court ruled against this.
Suntory have welcomed the decision while it is unclear if Red Paralela plan to appeal. Reports state the case could be taken before the Spanish Supreme Court if appealed.