Monster vs. VPX: Dutch Court Case Results in Partial Judgement

Monster Energy’s legal battle with VPX Sports has gone international.

According to documents from Amsterdam District Court in The Netherlands shared yesterday by communications firm Sitrick & Company, which lists Monster Beverage Corp. as a client, the energy drink maker’s Dublin-based European subsidiary, Monster Energy Limited, has received a partial judgement in its complaint against Bang B.V., which markets and sells VPX’s Bang energy drink in Holland.

Monster’s suit contained a variety of claims, including misleading advertising, unfair trade practices, and violation of food and supplement safety codes. Retailers Lucky Vitamin LLC and Predator Online Nutrition were both named as co-defendants in the suit

The crux of Monster’s case against VPX was mainly a question of jurisdiction; Bang B.V. operates in the Netherlands under Dutch law, and U.S.-based VPX is a shareholder. VPX CEO Jack Owoc is a director at Bang B.V., which sells product directly to consumers in the country through its website. The judge declared that the court only had jurisdiction to adjudicate claims made against Bang B.V. and not VPX or Owoc.

That distinction also applied to the details of the case. Within the U.S., Bang features “super creatine” as a prominent ingredient on its packaging. Monster claimed that VPX was in violation of EU law by including “super creatine,” which has not yet been approved as an ingredient by European regulators. However, the court ruled that Bang B.V. already ceased promotion and sale of energy drinks with “super creatine” in the EU in March, and has stripped references to the ingredient from its social media accounts and websites.

“VPX and Owoc have adequately demonstrated that the European and American market of Bang are strictly separate,” the ruling stated. “Different products, or at least products with different ingredients, are traded and so the associated advertising statements are different.”

The court also denied Monster’s efforts to hold Owoc responsible for claims and statements made about Bang products on YouTube and social media channels, stating it did not have jurisdiction because the statements were not specifically targeting the Netherlands.

“Why Owoc should be personally liable is also incomprehensible,” wrote A.J. Beukenhorst, Preliminary Relief Judge. “Nothing has been argued about [the] director’s liability and the mere fact that he appears in advertising videos of VPX does not make him personally liable either.“

However, the judge agreed with certain claims made by Monster regarding Bang B.V.’s use of the ingredient L-Arginine. The court ruled that a pictogram featured on Bang B.V.’s website in which L-Arginine is symbolized by a muscular arm is misleading in suggesting that the ingredient promotes muscle mass. The prominent inclusion of “L-Arginine” on Bang B.V.’s products, without mentioning how much is actually in the product, was considered misleading according to consumer law.

Bang B.V. must cease and desist from selling or promoting products in which “L-Arginine” is featured on the package within one month. The company must also stop using the aforementioned pictogram in marketing and promotion.

The judgments will apply to all 28 EU member states because of rules regarding misleading advertising and unfair trade practices.

Monster is “to be deemed the party largely found to be in the wrong against VPX, Bang B.V. and Owoc,” according to the court, and has been ordered to pay for their expenses.

The two rivals have a long history of contentious litigation, including pending cases in U.S. court.