Vital Pharmaceuticals/VPX Sports, the parent company of energy drink Bang, is suing Monster Energy Corp. Again.
This latest legal action — not to be confused with any other entries in the two companies’ long list of previous entanglements — was filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida. The complaint accuses Monster and its executives of engaging in a “conspiracy” to “suppress, obstruct, and conceal” alleged health risks related to consumption of the brand’s energy drink products.
“Monster has a long history of attempting to bully its competitors in the courthouse, confusing consumers in the public domain, and competing illegally in the marketplace,” said Bang Energy’s CEO, Jack Owoc, in a press release. “Monster picked this fight with Bang Energy. But Monster won’t get away with its illegal and unethical tactics—and Monster won’t stop either Bang Energy’s growth or the public’s realization that Monster is truly a monster!”
The lawsuit represents a shift in tactics by VPX; rather than accusing Monster of borrowing its trade dress or positioning, the complaint asserts that “Monster’s flagship product is not an ‘energy’ drink at all” because it has “zero positive effect on energy or mood.”
“Monster’s false representations that its flagship product is an ‘energy’ drink and its related failure to warn consumers of the sugar crash and other potential negative health consequences of drinking the company’s products… has permitted Monster to achieve billions in dollars in sales at the expense of public health and honest competitors like Bang Energy,” the complaint reads.
Vital claims that Monster, “caught off guard” by the success of Bang, created performance energy sub-brand Reign as a “shameless knockoff” and then supported the launch with a “widespread smear campaign.”
The suit contains specific claims that Monster spread “falsehoods and misinformation” about Bang’s products and Owoc himself through a website called “The Truth About Bang” (TAB) that posted “doctored and mischaracterized” videos and images that were “defrauding, deceiving and confusing” to the public. Bang issued a cease-and-desist letter demanding removal of the website in March 2019.
To accomplish this, lawyers for Bang state that Monster used California-based Markerly, an influencer marketing agency, to “orchestrate a furtive disinformation campaign” against Bang and Owoc using material from the TAB site. Both Markerly and individual “John and Jane Doe Influencers” are named as defendants in the suit.
Finally, the suit also accuses representatives of Monster and Coca-Cola distributors, acting at the direction of Monster, of placing advertising cards on retail store shelves that reference claims made on the TAB site. It also accuses Monster of threatening legal action against Bang distributors “if they interfere with Monster’s products and shelf space allocations.”
Bang is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction against Monster, statutory, punitive and treble damages; attorneys fees; and other fees. It also seeks to permanently enjoin Monster — including employees and affiliates — from directly or indirectly infringing Bang’s copyright or marketing.
Bang Energy is represented in this lawsuit by its outside counsel, Miles Scully, Timothy Branson, Holly Heffner, and Andrew Schindler, of Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, LLP, and its in-house attorneys, Marc Kesten, Francis Massabki, and Matthew Davidson.
Monster Energy did not respond to a request for comment on this story.