Bulmer may sue Matthew Clark over new-look cider

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S two biggest cider makers could become embroiled in a legal battle over best selling brands. HP Bulmer, the market leader, is considering suing Matthew Clark over its arch-rival's new look Dry Blackthorn brand. It is concerned that Dry Blackthorn now bears close resemblance to Strongbow, its own best-selling cider.

Matthew Clark is relaunching Blackthorn this week, backed by a pounds 7m advertising campaign. The new bottles and cans of cider have a motif in the shape of a gold arrow on a black background. Bulmer already uses an arrow symbol on a black background on its Strongbow packaging. Strongbow, like Blackthorn, is the subject of a high profile marketing drive which will see the two companies come head to head with each in the battle for a bigger slice of the troubled cider market.

A spokeswoman for Bulmer's said yesterday: "No legal action is being taken at the moment and we are in discussions with Matthew Clark." However the group did not rule out taking legal action in the future.

Matthew Clark denied the two parties were holding detailed discussions. "We remain totally confident in its [Dry Blackthorn's] integrity," said a spokesman for the group. "Of course we will respond vigorously if claims of this kind are made. One phone call was made by Matthew Clark to Bulmer this morning [Thursday] but they did not commit themselves and said they would look at the situation."

Strongbow and Dry Blackthorn are the most popular cider brands in the UK and their future success is vital to the financial fortunes of both groups. Competition in the cider market has intensified in recent years following a sharp fall in sales.