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.