PepsiCo Takes Legal Action Against FCB Chicago

CHICAGO – PepsiCo took legal action to stop a scheduled meeting between creative and account executives from Foote, Cone & Belding and Coca-Cola on Friday, arguing the agency remains entrusted with trade secrets of Pepsi’s Aquafina water.

Cook County Circuit Judge Richard Siebel on Friday signed the restraining order sought by Pepsi, ruling that until a hearing is held on Nov. 2, FCB employees who worked on Pepsi’s Aquafina brand cannot have any “contact or communication” with any “employees, representatives or agents of the Coca Cola company relating to Dasani water or the water category.”

In its filing, PepsiCo said it has learned that “FCB has taken concrete steps to commence work” on Dasani, and the agency “threaten[s] to misappropriate PepsiCo’s trade secrets and confidential information.” The filing cited Friday’s scheduled session between four FCB employees and Dasani executives.

Ultimately, Pepsi is asking for a permanent injunction to prevent FCB employees who worked on Aquafina from doing any work on Dasani for “at least two years,” according to the filing.

A Pepsi representative would not comment on “ongoing litigation.”

FCB CEO Brendan Ryan declined comment. A Coca-Cola representative said he had no knowledge of the filing.

The Pepsi-Coke conflict, consistently soft-pedaled by Interpublic Group CEO John Dooner and other executives upon IPG’s acquisition of True North this spring, has proved as nettlesome as most expected and now has resulted in two legal skirmishes.

Pepsi pulled $350 million in business from FCB last month, including Quaker Oats. FCB was subsequently awarded about $250 million in Coke business, including Dasani, Powerade and Minute Maid juices.

Two weeks ago, IPG and FCB were unsuccessful in their legal bid to stop former FCB president Brian Williams and others from working on Pepsi’s Quaker business at Omnicom.

That suit was dropped after a judge denied IPG’s request for a restraining order that would have stopped DDB from recruiting FCB talent.