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P&G Files Lawsuit Against Private Label Oral Mouth Rinse Manufacturer

CINCINNATI -- The Procter & Gamble Co. here has filed a lawsuit against Vi-Jon Industries, a private label manufacturer of health and beauty products, alleging that Vi-Jon infringed and diluted the unique trade dress of P&G's Crest Pro-Health antiplaque/antigingivitis oral rinse, and also engaged in false advertising of its mouthwash product. The Vi-Jon product is sold in retail stores under store brand names.

The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

"We had to take this action to protect our business and the interests of our consumers," said Diane Dietz, general manager North America oral care, in a statement. "Conduct from private label manufacturers that can mislead consumers cannot be tolerated.
P&G invests heavily in research, development, and intellectual property and design, and must protect that investment."

The lawsuit specifically alleges that Vi-Jon's packaging of its mouthwash product mimics many aspects of P&G's packaging, including P&G's distinctive "faceted diamond" bottle shape, the precise shade of blue mouthwash rinse, and the shape, metallic finish, and general color scheme of the label.

The lawsuit also alleges Vi-Jon's label communicates that the Vi-Jon product is comparable to P&G's Crest Pro-Health, and that the Vi-Jon product is effective in killing germs that cause plaque and gingivitis. P&G claims that its own testing shows that Vi-Jon's product is not comparable to Crest Pro-Health and is not effective in reducing plaque or gingivitis to a meaningful degree.

The lawsuit seeks to enjoin Vi-Jon from this conduct. It also seeks to recover damages for unfair competition and violations of P&G's intellectual property rights.

In related news, Procter & Gamble and McLane Company, Inc. on Tuesday jointly said they have reached a settlement in the lawsuit filed by P&G on Dec. 21, 2005 that alleges trade dress infringement on four of P&G's brands and unfair competition by McLane. McLane and its subsidiaries denied those contentions, but have agreed to a consent order submitted to the court and will immediately redesign the packaging of their products. The remaining terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
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