Can't Drink Coke In A Movie Without Coca Cola's Permission?

from the says-who? dept

As you watch companies and lawyers try to expand the meaning of trademark protection well beyond what it’s supposed to do, you start seeing all sorts of ridiculous actions. Take the latest example, pointed out by Justin Levine about Coca Cola forcing some movie makers to stop the release of their film, because officials at Coke were upset that a character in the movie drinks a can of Coke. Why wouldn’t Coke be happy about this bit of product placement? Perhaps because the character is supposed to be Jesus (though, again, it’s not clear why this is a bad thing). Either way, imagine if movie makers had to license the rights for every product that was used in every movie? Imagine if any company could block an entire movie because they didn’t like how their product was shown in the movie. Ford used in a car crash? Banned. A Boeing 747 crashes into a hillside? Banned. Bad guys using Dell computers? Banned. Someone shot by a Colt .45? Banned. Fat guy sits in an Aeron chair? Banned. After all, if trademark owners really can dictate how their products are used in movies then perhaps we’ll never see real products used in movies again. Well, except for the product placement slots they pay for. Those will still be allowed.

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Comments on “Can't Drink Coke In A Movie Without Coca Cola's Permission?”

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interesting says:


I can see perhaps a shirt being worn by a character that cleared emblazoned a logo, but most companies know that having their products in the movies actually HELPS sell their products. Take for instance Hero cologne in the Movie Lethal Weapon, or Dodge trucks and cars appearing everywhere in Walker Texas Ranger. How many times did that truck get shot, and yet it still ran perfectly… Hmm… Sold a lot of Dodge trucks.
Now, if the story is being told correctly, and the character drinking the coke was supposed to be the religious figure Jesus, I can see how coke might be concerned by negative whiplash against their product line on the part of Christians, and I can’t exactly blame people if they were offended. Many companies have learned the hard way that offending an entire group of people can be bad for their budget.

Pierre B says:

Re: This has to end somewhere?!

For a product like Coke, that is essentially an icon, this does not make sense.

In the cola area, there are two dominant players, Coke and Pepsi. Drinking one or the other does not mean anything. It is tantamount to a car manufacturer prohibiting the use of their vehicles in a movie or TV programme. You can possibly pay for product placement, but this does not mean that you have an unfettered right to determine whether your Coke can, McDonalds storefront, Levis jeans are shown on a show.

Rick says:

It’s obviously fair use and Coke has no grounds.

Can you imagine a movie about planes crashing without a plane?

How about an action movie without guns?

How are they going to film car crashes without cars?

Do they expect film-makers to now make every single prop or item in a flick by hand?

I can picture the costs of movie tickets running into the $1000s of dollars after the prop department had to build a jumbo jet from scratch along with all the cars, clothing, furniture, guns, appliances, light bulbs, and anything else anyone else makes that is in a movie. Besides the fact they would then need to license and patent any tech they use to make the props.

The movie makers BOUGHT that can of coke. They OWN that can of coke. They can do whatever they want with it, the same as you or I could – can’t they?

Jo Mamma says:

You are all wrong

No, Coke has total right to do this. This is their product and placing it in a movie without their permission is completely inappropriate.

Everyone knows that companies pay for product placement in movies. If someone uses coke and their logo, people will assume that coke wanted the placement.

Having Jesus drinking a coke would be very offensive to plenty of people (I for one don’t give a shit). Hence, bad idea, bad marketing, bad publicity.

Your reference to a lack of using any other products is a false one. If you do not prominently display the logo or name of a product or make it a theme of the movie, the product owner would likely have no grounds for complaint. This movie appears to have violated all three of those criteria.

But when Jesus drinks it and says how great coke is… they have total right to pull the plug. And that’s the way it should be.

Craven Twain says:

Re: You are all wrong

“that’s the way it should be”

Coke is a brand, but it’s also an icon of popular culture. It has a life separate and discreet from its existence as a trademark. If the Coca Cola company has the right to control the context in which its brand appears, that’s censorship.

More than that, it infringes on free speech.

It places Coke (Disney, Microsoft – pick your icon) beyond criticism in any artistic medium, making a mockery of law that was put in place to prevent wholesale copying of products.

A world where corporations have total control over how they’re portrayed? No thanks.

Anony-mouse says:

Re: Re: You are all wrong

There is no total control, nor is there a hindrance on speech. I can still walk around that Coke tastes like cat piss. I can do it in a movie and I can even say that Microsoft is the devil. The only thing I’m barred from doing is using their own registered (or unregistered) marks when doing so. If you want to think of Coke’s ability to control their marks as censorship, that’s fine. But it is censorship that is allowed. Think of it like your face. You have a right to control the way it is portrayed, assuming there is any commercial value to it. So, for instance, say Brad Pitt’s face was run atop a website for pornography and billed as a Brad Pitt approved site. He could shut that down. Yes, it’s censorship, but it’s allowable. If that same site were to have content that said “I bet Brad Pitt would love this site,” it’s a different story.
There is no total control over portrayal of corporations here. It is just control over use of the marks.

DSM says:

Re: Re: You are all wrong

Jo Mamma supports big corporations helping totalitarian regimes silence their critics too.

“Totalitarian regimes” *insert huge eyeroll here*

Corporations have rights. Sorry that the internet has brainwashed you into thinking that you have unlimited rights to something because you use, see, or can look up the product. Visibility does not equate to accessibility. Stay in school young buck.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: You are all wrong

“Totalitarian regimes” *insert huge eyeroll here*

Corporations have rights. Sorry that the internet has brainwashed you into thinking that you have unlimited rights to something because you use, see, or can look up the product. Visibility does not equate to accessibility. Stay in school young buck.

A military junta overthrew the elected government of Thailand 2006. The junta abrogated the constitution, dissolved Parliament and the Constitutional Court, arrested several members of the government and declared martial law. The junta has also banned all political activities and meetings. DSM may not consider that to be totalitarian, but I sure do and I don’t think one has to be “brainwashed” to see it.

It is interesting to note apologists for totalitarianism coming out in support of Coca Cola’s position here.

Jo Mamma says:

Re: Re: Re:2 You are all wrong

Yes, you’ve caught me, there is a vast conspiracy involving the military leaders in Thailand, Coca-cola, and me. Eventually we plan to take over the world and blow up the Grand Canyon! But really…

Supporting Google does not equate to supporting a totalitarian regime, and supporting Coke’s right to protect the product they’ve developed over 100 years is not tantamount to supporting totalitarianism either.

If you want to encourage investment (which creates jobs), you must be able to protect your investments.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: You are all wrong

No, Coke has total right to do this. This is their product and placing it in a movie without their permission is completely inappropriate.

Says what law? Why can’t people use whatever products they want in a movie? Trademark law isn’t designed to give you total control over a product, and if they legally paid for the Coke and aren’t implying that Coke supports their movie, there’s nothing wrong with it.

Everyone knows that companies pay for product placement in movies. If someone uses coke and their logo, people will assume that coke wanted the placement.

There is nothing that says that every product in a movie is paid for. Sorry, but I don’t buy the prima facie case that if it’s in the movie people will assume it’s paid for.

Again, think of how that would kill the ability for people to make movies.

But when Jesus drinks it and says how great coke is… they have total right to pull the plug. And that’s the way it should be.

No. That’s not how it should be. No company should have the right to tell a legal purchaser of their product how it can be used once they’ve purchased it.

Faceless Minion says:

As a somewhat devout Christian, I’m sort of wondering what people would be offended by Jesus drinking Coke. The only offensive reason I can think of is that it tastes like piss.

That being said, no, they are not within their rights to do this. The Coca Cola laywers are trying to play God for a movie portraying a version of Jesus. Ironic, ne?

Anonymous Coward says:

one stone to kill two birds for coke

How stupid could coca cola be selling cans without a license agreement. The can solve this easily two was with one solution-

Wrap the cans in a license agreement so people in the movie will not be able to see a the logo. Buried in the fine print will be a notice that popping the top off means you consent to the licensesand of course the license will prohibit its inclusion in an any photo graphs rather by cell phone of otherwise. Just to be safe, it can also prohibit you from disclosing the contents of the license agreement, and whether you had a refreshing experience.

ps- their secret formula includes the importation of coca from latin america. the war on drugs was their reason for trying to switch to the failed “new coke” without the coca. yes, the active ingredients are removed before you drink it. pssst- don;t tell anyone.

Philip says:

Blank products?

Didn’t companies use to use blank products because of this? I specifically remember seeing movies using empty labeled cans, unmarked cars, etc because of this very reason.

Then product placement came into the picture where companies like Coca-Cola PAID the movie producers to use Coke within the movie, instead of say Pepsi or a blank product.

However, I do think it’s pretty odd that Coca-Cola felt that they needed to be paid for somebody to use their product. Other companies would have paid for that opportunity.

Harold says:

Coke banned products in Movies

Corporations and Laywers are ruining this country. You may say we need lawyers? Nonsense. All they are doing is trying to protect everybody from everything, but ONLY if you have money to pay them. The big companies and the rich are trying to control everyone else. Doesn’t that sound a little like a form of slavery? You only get to do the things you are told you are ALLOWED to do…. We have WAY TOO MANY laws and Laywers. Take the money out of the picture, and let them really protect people with their hearts, and you’ll see how many laywers remain laywers…..

Josh says:

Having to build a 747 by hand...

To the above poster suggesting a props department would need to build a 747 by hand in order to crash it in a movie… Do you think that they _actually_ crash 747’s?

You do realize that they use “computers” to make “imaginary” planes, which could, in theory look like anything you want (i.e. they could look almost exactly nothing like a 747). And that all of the interior shots are filmed on sets they _did_ build themselves, since the interior of an actual airplane really isn’t designed with making a movie in mind (lighting, space, sound, etc).


nick says:

Its all about Jesus

This really isn’t so bad. If some people are offended by Jesus drinking a Coke, the film makers aren’t going to hear about it, Coke will. Whether or not to piss people off over this kind of thing should be Coke’s decision because before you know it there’s a massive boycott/letter writing/death threat campaign over using Jesus to sell more Coke. People go nuts over Jesus. You can’t even make a huge chocolate Jesus these days without being harassed, and that was arguably fine art that didn’t invoke using Jesus as a commercial vehicle to sell/make comment on some brand.

Of course, the film could go ahead and use a Coke can instead and argue about it in court, but that’s too expensive and it doesn’t even strike me that Coke is so vital to the scene that some other soda couldn’t do the trick. Rather than be a comment about Coke in particular (perhaps then a fair use) it seems more a comment about culture in general in which other things besides Coke could easily make the same point. It would be much different if there was some political point to make about Coke, but there doesn’t seem to be.

Rather than talk about how stories like this illustrate the absurdity of IP these days, the story here seems to be that Coke is so fearful of those who would object to Jesus drinking a Coke that they would actually stop this use. Its a safe bet that anything associated with Jesus or homosexuals will cause an uproar that any company wants, and should have a right, to avoid if they wish. Snickers ran into a bunch of trouble over their Superbowl ad, where two men have a Lady and the Tramp moment over a snickers bar and kiss, as both anti-gay groups (no gays kissing on TV) and pro-gay groups (ad promoted violence against gays) both objected to the point that the ad needed to be pulled. There, Snickers got to make the decision and it would have been unfair for them to deal with all that because some random guy decided to use a Snickers instead of some other candy.

Yeah, free promotion on all that jazz, but this is troublesome promotion that isn’t so much free but potentially costly for Coke.

John says:

coke,enoiugh already

Unreal.Why are companies so pompous nowadays?
Sue this,sue that ,wah wah wah you got something for free,you used our trademarks.wahhhhhhhhhhhhh!
Oh no we only made $99 gagillion dollars this year .
What would be funny is if people read this and decided to buy other products because companies are so sue happy and they actually lost money .

Anonymous Coward says:

I wonder if coke had to pay placement fee for pepsi ads… like this one.

or did pepsi pay coke for using coke in their ads? And why Coke didn’t take any action against it?

Isn’t it because “comparative marketing” has long been recognized as a right to use competitors product name to promote the superiority of your product/inferiority of competitor’s product in the US? Remember Pepsi’s MC Hammer ad where Hammer couldn’t sing when he took a sip of Coke? If it’s not illegal how could jesus drinking coke be?

either way, coke is being a dumb-dumb in this one. if this constitute a trademark violation….then me using a word “Coke” in newspaper or other non-fiction publication also violates. If i write a hit true-story book about a gay pedophile who loves jesus and coke, i’d probably offend many people, but i’m protected by freedom of speech. what if i make a movie based on it?

so my question here would be… it illegal to tell a true story with real names and products names?

I thought what trademark laws offer is to “claim” the damage incurred by the mis-use after the fact….well, i could be wrong.

who knows, coke is delicious anyways, even pedophiles and retards love it, who cares.

Aly says:

i have coke in my house , does coke have the rite to say dont to be kept in the fridge ….
i cannt drink it from the bottle or from a glass …… the conent of how much i drink. .. etc …
once the product is sold its no longer their property … thou they say the bottles are not sold ( deposit ) and remain a property of the coca coke company …

rEdEyEz says:

This could be a good thing....

This is potentially the best thing that could ever happen to the entertainment industry.

Hopefully, they’ll litigate the entire industry out of business, and we’ll no longer be subjected to the idiocy coming out of Hollywood.

Imagine, going back into your favorite restaurant only to find last years “superstar Hollywood actor” waiting on your table, sucking up for tip money; beautiful.

If our entire motion picture industry was animated, digital representations of people, places, or things, who would really care?

Would you be any less entertained?

…truthfully, sounds more like a soda company wanting their share of the revenue…

…what about all of the advocates of the coca plant that want “coca” removed from the brand name of the cola? Is their argument any less (more) absurd?

Rachael says:

Lots of people seem to be confused here...

Coca-Cola is having the scene removed based on trademark dilution, not infringement of copyright…

Fair use is a defense to copyright infringement. Coke is not alleging that the use of their can on screen infringes on their copyright in the Coke logo (which is not protected by copyright because of the merger doctrine — it’s utilitarian and is simply communicating the message of their brand name), but rather that the use of the Coke trademark in that context will bring negative consequences to the company by diluting the goodwill that is attached to the Coca-Cola brand name.

Really, Coke’s not the one at fault here. Whoever was in charge of getting the script cleared didn’t do their job. Any time you’re going to use a trademarked product and it’s more than incidental in a scene, you have to get a license for it. If Jesus had simply taken a sip of coke and that was it, there would be no injunction, but because the cola is even momentarily the focus of the scene, permission must be obtained before its use. That’s just basic… and not even remotely new.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Lots of people seem to be confused here...

Really, Coke’s not the one at fault here. Whoever was in charge of getting the script cleared didn’t do their job.

That’s ridiculous. Why should the script people need to make sure they can use a can of soda in their script? Think of how limiting that is.

Any time you’re going to use a trademarked product and it’s more than incidental in a scene, you have to get a license for it.

That is not what trademark law is supposed to be used for. Do you really think this is an effective use of trademark law?

permission must be obtained before its use. That’s just basic…

If it’s basic, then there’s something very, very wrong with the law. It’s a huge limitation on creative rights.

Jo Mamma says:

Re: Re: Lots of people seem to be confused here...

Well, I think Rachel raises a good point. Too bad I didn’t see it earlier.

I didn’t realize there was a difference between infringement and dilution, but it makes sense.

Just shows that it’s good to have someone around that knows the law!

Mike, I disagree when you say there’s something wrong with the law. I just don’t see not being able to control the use of something after you’ve spent 100+ years developing it… even if we don’t agree with the particular instance it’s being censored in, I think they have the basic right to have it used however they want. But it seems we disagree!

LesterRay says:


Bottom line is, if I buy a product it is mine to use anyway I see fit. Remember, it’s mine. And one thing for sure that I do know, if Jesus wants to drink a coke it’s His business and I feel for the poor soul that stands in His way. Besides what is it that has been said for years; Jesus is like coke, He is the real thing…

Charles Griswold (user link) says:

Re: Re:

I think it’s time to force coke put same logo tobaco companies have to put – “This product is harmfull and will eventually kill you if conusmed often”

Then they would have to put that warning on anything with significant amounts of refined sugar. Not bloody likely, IMHO. Remember the flap surrounding the regulation of trans-fats?

DSM says:

Re: Re:

“I think it’s time to force coke put same logo tobacco companies have to put – “This product is harmful and will eventually kill you if consumed often”

Yes, Komrade Leonid, I’m sure you would.

Let’s regulate stupidity and make it the fault of manufacturers of products when people misuse them. That’s like imprisoning car manufacturers for allowing their car to be in a drunk driving accident.

Sanguine Dream says:

Double dipping...

Coke is trying to have its cake and eat it too. They want their brand in the movies but want to flip the script and force movie makers pay them for the right to advertise their brand.

Last I checked when someone wants their brand advertised they pay to have someone advertise it for them. Bacardi pays magazines to run their ads. Tag pays tv networks to have their ads run on tv. Law firms pay the city (I guess, but I’m sure they pay someone for that space) for those massive billboards you see while driving. What makes Coke so damn special that they think someone should have to pay them to advertise their products?

Anonymous Coward says:


This has been around for years.

It’s called “product placement” and you have to PAY for it.

Why do you think you always see “AT&T” promantly displayed on telephones but never any other?? They paid for it you retard!

Why do you think you always see “Apple” pc’s everywhere but never any other? They paid for it you retard!

Why do you think you always see verizon VCast phones on 24? They paid for it you retard!

Fair use is USE. No one in movies / television etc are “users”. They are ACTING and using the items as PROPS, not as consumable products to enjoy.

You fucking retards who think that shit is free, need to grow the fuck up and stop crying about bullshit that wouldn’t even BE THE FUCK AROUND IF SOMEONE (NAMELY YOU, YOU RETARDED FUCKIN CHILD!) PAID FOR IT.

Consumables cost money to make, if no one paid for anything, no one one make anything.

How about you fuckin retarded bastards get a fucking clue and CUT THE FUCKING CHILDISH “IT’S MINE” 5 year old shit.

Just another fucking example of what the future will be with you fucking retards posting retarded comments

joe says:

Re: Retards

product placement is when a company pays to have their product in a movie. in this situation, coca-cola is mad that their product got in the movie without their permission (in such a way that could plausibly damage sales, though i doubt it would).

the movie gave coke free product placement, and that is why people are calling coke whiny. coke is probably being whiny because jesus drinking coke might be offensive to some people.

judging by the success of the da vinci code, however, i’m not sure the general public is too concerned with making jesus look bad.

Dave says:

Can't Drink Coke Without Permission from Coke

It’s a sad state of affairs when folks spend time worrying about something like this when we have so many important social / political issues that need to be dealt with here in the US. Let’s talk about important things: Fair Tax Law Proposal, War in Iraq, congressmens’ loss of sight of the intent of our Constitution (it looks like everyone for themselves, not for the country). I could go on, but there are a lot of big issues that need to be addressed and worrying about a can of Coke on a movie is reidiculous!

Logo, word, phrase, all trademarkable....that mean says:

they oughta realize, Jesus drinking Coke is a parody. if someone stops drinking coke or make a commotion about of it just because of the scene, that person has 100 imaginary friends and loves to screw a rabbit.

Did McDonald, pizza hut, and KFC sue Morgan Spurlock for his movie Supersize me? i mean they used trademarked words, which are their company name and logos, to pretty much defame them purposely.

really, i see that Coke has a right to do so, but Coke has a burden of proof to show to what extent the movie damaged its company profit. plus they are gonna have to fight against the first amendment.

i like coke, but money hungry corporate lawyers who exploit our tax money, no

Anonymous Coward says:

ok i am sitting in the movie theater and i see somone drink a coke in the movie, as brain washing advertisments have imprented in my mind how refershing coke was all through my life the first thing i may think is, hmm…i need a coke. now that wont happen, i wont have to pee and i can see the whole movie


doh!!! did i just infringe?….

ahh damit, there here, now i lose my laptop 🙁

chmike says:

Sorry but there must be limits. But sure, there must work both ways.

Inventors have a moral right on the use of their intellectual property, it should be the same for trademarks. I admit that it might be tricky to draw the line of morality, but in some case, like the one presented here, it is quite obvious.

Thanks for calling our attention on the risk of excess in both ways. But there is also a ight path in between.

ChurchHatesTucker (user link) says:

Frakin' A, people.

Oh, Christ Jesus, I can’t believe anyone is lining up behing Coca Cola on this one.

This is already a headache for documentary filmmakers. Not because the companies have any right to dictate such things, but because they have the lawyers that make it too expensive for anyone else to assert their rights.

Here, there’s even a comic book you can all read.

Matthew Rigdon (user link) says:

I don't think Coke wants to be in the movie anyway

The thing is, Coke doesn’t even want to be paid, they don’t want to be in the movie at all.

If you are walking down the street and someone shoots a movie scene where two people are beating up a dog while you just stand there, if the movie crew didn’t get a release from you, they have to re-shoot the scene. Because, you know, you might not want people to think you think it’s okay to kick dogs.

And don’t bring up Borat. The guys who shot Borat got releases from everyone who appeared in the film (even the folks in the crowds, you’ll notice signs at most public events that say your attendance at the event also gives the venue permission to use your appearance on film. The Borat guys got permission from the venue). But guess what, if the idiots who made this film didn’t bother to call up Coke and say “We want to use your Coke can in a movie (not a documentary, mind you)”, it’s not Coke’s fault that somebody at the production company didn’t do his job.

Let’s not muddy up the waters here.

Staunch Copyright Advocate says:

Re: Coke has something to protect

The filmakers never got a release from Coke. Why didn’t they film it with some prop cola? Because they are trying to trade on Coke’s fame.

When you buy a Coke you’re buying a drink – not an icon you can use in your movie. If Coke doesn’t protect their brand they will loose it.

This is not a baseless lawsuit.

Now the filmakers are playing the “artist against the big bad corporation” card and lots of idiots are falling for it.

salvatore says:

from Italy

The “7 km from Jerusalem” affaire seems to be happly concluded and for the best:
The film directed by Claudio Malaponti, was in the past weeks the cause of a controversy with Coca-Cola because of a scene where Milan offers a can of Coca-Cola to Jesus Christ and it exclaims: “God, what a testimonial!”
The producers of the film, Graziano Prota and Angelo Sconda ,in order to respect and comply to the will of the Coca-Cola Corporation that had prevented the film directed from Claudio Malaponti to arrive on the screen by Easter Sunday(APRILthe 6th), they declare that on the 6th of april they had received a communication from Coca-Cola Italy in which they asserted they had realized that the rappresentation of their brand in the scene was a creative and artistic need of the director to use a universal symbol that was contemporary, adding moreover that it did not appear to be offensive and authorized to leave the Coca cola can in the movie so that the cinematographic work could be relized in its integral version”.
I do not understand WHY the film the Coca Cola Company did’nt approve at first and after agreed that it was ok.
It’s incredibile ? it has created a lot of pubblicity for Coca cola and for the film.
Well it is all good what ends good.
So please people go to see our movie on the 4th of may now that coca cola gave us the blessings..
Thank you COCA COLA
Thank you God

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