Irn Bru sues supermarket over 'imitation' drink

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A legal battle is brewing between the makers of Irn Bru and Lidl, the discount supermarket group, over the remarkable similarity between Lidl's "Iron Brew" product and the popular Scottish pick-me-up.

AG Barr, makers of Irn Bru, have issued a writ against Lidl claiming that Iron Brew, which shares the same blue and gold colour packaging as the Barr product, infringes its trademark.

The writ demands the withdrawal of the product from Lidl's shelves, a share of the supermarket group's profits from the sale of Iron Brew, and further undisclosed damages.

Neither AG Barr or Lidl would comment on the case, but it is understood that Lidl are keen to settle quickly and have made an undisclosed offer to Barr.

The "Brew war" is the latest in a series of battles between manufacturers and supermarkets over own brand imitations. Last month the High Court ruled that Asda had infringed United Biscuits' Penguin trademark with its similarly-packaged "Puffin" biscuits. Grand Metropolitan is also suing the supermarket over alleged infringements of some of its drinks trademarks.

The British Brands Group, a lobbying organisation for the large food manufacturers, has called on the Government to tighten legislation to stop supermarkets from stacking shelves with own-label products whose packaging makes them hard to distinguish from the real thing.

Three weeks ago, Tesco, which has packaged its own-label products in similar style to a number of well-known brands, offered an olive branch to manufacturers by stating that it would take steps to differentiate its own label goods. Sainsbury is believed to have taken a similar stance.