P&G sues Vi-Jon over Target mouthwash bottle

By Jessica Wohl

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Procter & Gamble Co <PG.N> sued Vi-Jon Inc again for infringing its patents and trademarks, this time for making and selling a bottle for a Target mouthwash that looks too much like P&G's Scope Outlast.

P&G filed the lawsuit on Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. P&G claims that the bottle, which is being used by Target Corp <TGT.N> for its up & up brand, looks too much like P&G's bottle.

Vi-Jon, which sells a variety of private label household products to retailers, declined to comment because it was not aware of the lawsuit. According to P&G's lawsuit, Vi-Jon denied the packaging infringed P&G's intellectual property rights in a May 18 letter.

This is the third lawsuit that P&G, the world's largest household products maker, has brought related to Vi-Jon mouthwash packaging.

In the latest lawsuit, P&G claims that the bottle and label shape infringe its design patents, trade dress, trademarks and copyright.

Scope Outlast, launched in August 2009, was packaged in a new bottle to differentiate it from other products.

The Scope Outlast bottle has a longer neck and wider bottom than previous Scope bottles and has a triangular label.

P&G, in the lawsuit, calls the bottle design "unique, non-functional and inherently distinctive."

P&G seeks to stop Vi-Jon from violating its intellectual property and from selling the products.

"Vi-Jon is using and benefiting from our intellectual property, which we developed and promoted at great cost," Charlie Pierce, group president of P&G's oral care business, said in a statement.

P&G asserts that Vi-Jon does a large part of its business by imitating P&G's products and packaging.

In February 2006, P&G sued Vi-Jon for trade dress infringement and other claims related to its Crest Pro-Health oral rinse. That case was settled after Vi-Jon agreed to pull its product from the market and not use bottle designs that were too similar.

In May 2006, P&G had sued Cumberland Swan Holdings Inc, a company related to Vi-Jon, again over Crest Pro-Health. That case resulted in an order permanently blocking Cumberland and other related companies, including Vi-Jon, from selling allegedly infringing products.

The case is Procter & Gamble Co v. Vi-Jon Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio, No. 11-00347.

(Reporting by Jessica Wohl, editing by Bernard Orr)