Coca-Cola Company responds to MyCoke.co.za closure

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MarkLives.com contacted and received the following statement from Kaizer M. Nyatsumba, Public Affairs and Communications Director for Coca-Cola South Africa, regarding the closure of popular MY Coke Fest blog MyCoke.co.za. The blog was set up South African blogger Jason Bagley who announced the blogs closure earlier this week following legal action taken by The Coca-Cola Company.

The statement in full:

In early December 2008, The Coca-Cola Company became aware of a website being operated at www.mycoke.co.za, which contained information and blogs about the MY COKE FEST 2008 events. Of concern to the Company was unauthorized use of its registered and well-known trademarks, including MY COKE FEST, COCA-COLA, COKE and the famous CONTOUR BOTTLE. Large portions of The Coca-Cola Company’s official MY COKE FEST 2008 website had also been copied and reproduced on Mr Bagley’s website in contravention of copyright legislation.

The images, wording, statements and domain name used for mycoke.co.za created the impression that the website was official and/or authorized by The Coca-Cola Company. However, this is not the case as there is no relationship between Mr Bagley and The Coca-Cola Company. The Coca-Cola Company had not supplied or authorized the content of the website although visitors to the website were being led to believe that this was the official MY COKE FEST website.

At that time, the unauthorized website contained a number of sponsored advertisements which were generating revenue for Mr Bagley.
The Coca-Cola Company’s intellectual property rights (trademarks, copyright works, goodwill, etc.) are assets of substantial value which require constant protection.  Allowing third parties to make use of this intellectual property without authority can lead to confusion among members of the public and, ultimately, a dilution of important brands. The Coca-Cola Company cannot countenance such an infringement of its intellectual property rights under any circumstances.

In this case, since The Coca-Cola Company had no relationship with Mr Bagley and no review of the content on the mycoke.co.za website, there was great potential for harm. In the circumstances, The Coca-Cola Company obtained legal advice and then instructed its intellectual property attorneys to address a letter to Mr Bagley, explaining its position and rights and requesting him to delete the domain name mycoke.co.za and cease all and any unauthorized use of the Company’s trademarks. This letter was addressed to Mr Bagley by e-mail on 12 December 2008, with a response being requested by 15 December 2008.

On 16 December 2008, Mr Bagley responded to Adams & Adams, advising that he would be on leave until 7 January 2009. In response, Adams & Adams advised that, in view of the very serious nature of the infringements, the matter could not be held over until 7 January but that, provided the website was suspended immediately, they would be prepared to wait until mid-January for a comprehensive response to the demands.

On 18 December 2008, Mr Bagley sent a further e-mail to Adams & Adams advising that the website had built up a large following and enquiring about the possibility of entering into an arrangement with The Coca-Cola Company to leverage the marketing value of the blog. He also advised that he had taken down the advertising from the website.

In view of the fact that Mr Bagley’s conduct in using The Coca-Cola Company’s intellectual property without its authority was unlawful, the Company felt that it was neither obliged to, nor willing to, enter into any discussions with Mr Bagley which would involve paying him any amount of money or taking over the website. He was advised of this decision in mid-January and was again requested to cease the infringing conduct by no later than 23 January 2009. Mr. Bagley’s site remained active and continued to include intellectual property of The Coca-Cola Company without authorization.

In the meantime, the 2009 COCA-COLA ZERO FEST event was announced and the mycoke.co.za website was amended to include details of this announcement, again worded in such a way that the mycoke.co.za website appeared to be the official website for the event, despite the correspondence exchanged between Mr. Bagley and outside counsel for The Coca-Cola Company. The Coca-Cola Company has its own, official website for this year’s event at www.cokezero.co.za/fest.

No response to the requests to Mr Bagley was received by Adams & Adams, despite further and final reminders being sent to him on 4 and 9 February. On 9 February, however, Mr Bagley announced on the mycoke.co.za blog, that he had decided to comply and would be taking down the website by 16 February 2009.

The Coca-Cola Company appreciates all comments and feedback received from fans of the MY COKE FEST events and encourages discussion and dialogue about these events in open forums. However, the Company cannot knowingly permit such discussions to take place in conjunction with the unauthorized use of its trade marks which could ultimately result in harm to its brands and image.

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Published by Herman Manson

MarkLives.com is edited by Herman Manson. Follow us on Twitter - http://twitter.com/marklives

18 replies on “Coca-Cola Company responds to MyCoke.co.za closure”

  1. Still think its a poor move from Coke. Lets be honest the official site
    sucks big time and no matter which way you look at it Jason built a more
    popular and evidently useful site.

    Would have been a much better move for them to have worked with Jason instead.
    Statements like this “neither obliged to, nor willing to, enter into any discussions with Mr Bagley” are just typical…

    Coke understand this; Mr Bagley is one of your consumers, this is why you are obliged to engage with him. Maybe if you had understood this you could have gained from this incident instead of pissing off your consumers by taking away something that was ultimately doing you a favor…

    I for one will not be attending this years coke fest

  2. So sad that huge companies always take legal actions first and ask questions later.
    So unweb2.0 like, Shame on you coke!

    Why not just work with Jason to make mycoke.co.za an official project of coke.
    It will be so much better for your name than by telling him to close the site.

    This is the problem with all huge companies. They forget that web2.0 is a about communication. Communication is two ways. Mr Bagley site proves this so clearly!
    Your policies are old school and if you want to hang around on social websites like facebook, youtube, zoopy etc, its time you realize that the web works differently. Yes the law is the law and Jason was wrong, however in this era its better to work with than against.

  3. Mr Badgley has a history of setting up even sites, copying trademarked logos and content without permission and putting it on his web sites. He did this with his Virgin Festival site http://www.thevirginfest.co.za/ then clearly got away with it and then did it for Coke Fest.

    His main intention seems be to make money from advertisements on these sites. He clearly uses someone else’s marketing to benefit himself.

    His actions became more objectionable this time around by not indicating anywhere on the site that it was not the official Coke Fest site as he had done with his Virgin Fest site – albeit a very small disclaimer at the top.

    He clearly stole Coca-Cola content, marketing and good name and made money off it. I’m surprised he isn’t being sue for damages. I strong believe he should be made an example of in order to stop individuals from doing this.

  4. It’s incredible that the ‘public’ assumes they own a brand and can do what they want with it. I’m sure Mr Bagley wouldn’t like it it someone impersonated him or his company and traded off his good name and portfolio.

  5. It’s easy to slam Coke and their online marketing strategies, but based purely on their response, I have to say that Bagley was in the wrong here.

    The “fact” that Coke’s own sites are slower/poorly built isn’t even a point of consideration. Jason purposed an internationally recognised brand for his own purposes without getting authorization or giving due credit, ran revenue-generating advertisements, and then failed to respond on set deadlines from the legal agency of said brand. And he did it twice.

    WordPress is not the most difficult site in the world to deactivate at a moment’s notice. It could be done in the time it takes to compose and send an email saying that you can’t do it till later.

    All that we’ve got out of this was another smear on the name of local online entrepreneurs. And despite Coke’s massive size and legal clout, they were patient with Bagley despite the fact that he consistently responded to emails late, made poor excuses, and dragged the ordeal out over a month. I’d say Coke was the better player in this scrap.

    ~ Wogan

  6. As a blogger who was at the receiving end of legal demands, I have no sympathy whatsoever for Coke. They may be trying to “protect” their brand, but if their own web site sucks then they should fix it first, and then work with Bagley in a friendly way to sort out the problem.

    Lawyers in general have NO IDEA about how much bad publicity a matter like this will cause. And it seems like the MD for Coke is just as blind as his lawyers.

  7. I support Jason in this matter. As @Charl said, Coke is slack online, Jason is technically running a “free” online strategy for them, it’s all about the Coke Fest and therefore is creating awareness around the brand and event, which is more than Coke is doing (online).

    All I can say is that should the domain be revoked, then I hope that someone will take the time to continue running the blog as it’s clear that the public really enjoy what Jason has done.

  8. I understand Coke’s stance on this. Just because companies are expected to treat their customers like Gold, the expectation should not require them to loose control over their brand and their marketing. The web is already a very difficult place for companies to take control of their public portrait, due to the sheer volume of uneducated opinion floating around. If they were to allow any tom, dick or harry to build a website in their name and not take a serious stance against it, who knows what would be next. Mycoke.co.za borders on fraud, so in that light, Coke have actually been very understanding.

  9. Next time I’m ordering Pepsi.

    Coke like many other large companies have very little understanding of the web. Hopefully actions like this will kill the event…mind you the line up for Coke Zero fest might kill them on its own!

  10. The guy’s blog should read “Blogger, Web Entrepreneur, Social Media Scientist and Naive Amateur”. The big corporate multinational corporate behemoth has an annual ad spend in the billions and he wants to “partner” with them. A blogger?

  11. I think Coca-Cola was legally and morally in the right to act to protect their brand. They have no obligation to work with any third party who opportunistically tries to profit from their brand, especially if they pass themselves off as being official and deceives their audience into that false notion.

    It comes as no surprise to me, however, that fans of the site and friends of Jason Bagley side with him, despite the fact that he has not a legal leg to stand on.

    Emotion rules the mob. 2000 people is a drop in the ocean, however. If that is the net sum of upset fans, it is a paltry band. Coca-Cola can afford to lose their business, should they choose to boycott them. In fact, I doubt if any of them could last the rest of their lives without drinking Coca-Cola again – it’s too much a part of our society to completely abstain from it. It’s the ultimate mixer for almost any alcoholic beverage, and most of these people drink themselves regularly to sleep.

  12. Dumb move from Coke’s part. Here’s a guy doing a good job promoting your company and brand, and shouldn’t he be rewarded in some way. Coke would probably have lost more money paying someone to do the same job. It boils down to a greedy company that cannot bare the thought of someone else earning money – even if by promoting that company. A blog is a community thing, and thus its sad that Coke didn’t endorse or support or even encourage this guy. As for me, I went to Coke’s website once and thought – O||H KAY and then didnt bother again. Coke – in terms of online – has shot itself in the foot. Dumb move Coke.

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