Colgate and Glaxo finally settle ‘nurdle’ lawsuit

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Toothpaste

The world’s two biggest oral care players – Colgate Palmolive and GlaxoSmithKline – have resolved an on-going lawsuit over the term ‘nurdle’, used to illustrate a blob of toothpaste.

The two companies said they had come to a confidential settlement of litigation over the right to depict a toothpaste product using a distinctive wave-shaped nurdle of toothpaste in product marketing materials and on the packaging.

The toothpaste nurdle sits on a toothbrush and is used by the companies to both demonstrate the actual product as well as suggesting the size of the toothpaste portion consumers should use.

Initially it was claimed to be the reserve of GlaxoSmithKlline, but Colgate challenged the claim with a lawsuit, action that GlaxoSmith responded to with a counter lawsuit, filed in the same court on the same day.

Colgate Palmolive filed case no. 10-05728 at the US District Court, Southern District of New York back in August last year in an attempt to get court backing to its claim that the packaging and marketing campaign for its Colgate toothpaste should not infringe trademarks that are already held by GlaxoSmithKline.

The same week, GlaxoSmithKline responded with lawsuit no. 10-05739, filed in the same law court, seeking to prove that Colgate's claims are without base and that the trademark rights for the nurdle are warranted.

Three colored 'nurdle' claim

The trademark dispute centered on the fact that Glaxo holds trademark rights for the tri-colored nurdle and the 'Triple Protection' phrase used to promote its global Aquafresh toothpaste brand.

Colgate's lawsuit complained that Glaxo's trademark rights to the nurdle are too vague, and limit fair competition.

In the 76-page lawsuit document, Colgate lawyers specify that Glaxo's nurdle trademark is regardless of colour, a factor that potentially restricts its ability to market new multifunctional toothpastes.

Colgate Triple Action claim

The document made an example of Colgate's new 'Triple Action' toothpaste, which is currently marketed in the US with three stripes - blue, green and white - signifying the product's ability to protect against cavities, freshen breath and whiten teeth.

Glaxo claimed that the red, blue and white stripes that are used in the nurdle to promote its Aquafresh brand with the Triple Protection tag have been trademarked to help promote the brand's unique position in the market.

Its lawsuit claimed that Colgate's use of the nurdle to market its toothpaste is potentially confusing to Glaxo consumers, who have traditionally associated a stripey toothpaste nurdle with its brand.

Related topics: Business & Financial

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