A random thought crossed my mind a few days ago during the course of a conversation with my friends. The thought was in the form of an advertisement for Pepsi, which goes something like this:
There are a bunch of teenagers having dope/cocaine in a rave party at a farmhouse in Pune. Indra Nooyi, the Chairman and CEO of Pepsi Co, walks into the farmhouse and snatches the cocaine from the hands of the teenagers and thunders:
“Say No to Coke, Say Yes to Pepsi! Say No to Death, Say Yes to Life!”
Would this hypothetical commercial attract an action for commercial disparagement against Pepsi by Coca Cola? Would the use of “Coke”, given the context in which it is used in the advertisement, provide Pepsi with an adequate defense against the allegation of commercial disparagement?
Or would a court take the view that the use of “Coke” in the commercial would inevitably lead viewers to relate the word to Pepsi’s competitor Coca Cola, and hence hold the advert as an act of disparagement?
Is it justified to postulate that merely because Coca Cola happens to be a competitor of Pepsi Co, the use of the word “coke” to refer to cocaine, isn’t available to Pepsi Co?
I would like to know the views of our readers on the possible arguments and counter-arguments.