Confectionery giant faces straws lawsuit

David Hogg

A SMALL manufacturing company founded by a British inventor has instigated a “David and Goliath” lawsuit by suing Nestl for allegedly copying its flavoured drinking straw design.

Australian-based Unistraw has accused Nestl of breaching design rights and a confidentiality agreement after the Swiss company brought out its own “Magic Straw” range.

Nestl has denied copying Unistraw’s patented Sipahh straw design and has vowed to fight the multi-million pound legal claim.

Unistraw’s transparent flavouring straws contain dozens of small, coloured granules known as Unibeads in chocolate, strawberry, banana and caramel flavours. Plain milk becomes flavoured when it is sucked through.

The Sipahh design has already been launched successfully in Australia.

Unistraw claims the recipes and manufacture techniques are trade secrets owned by the company and invented by Yorkshireman Peter Baron, who started developing the product nine years ago in Australia.

Mr Baron said: “This is a very serious claim although it may seem like a David and Goliath type battle. We are determined not to let Nestl get away with this.”

Unistraw says it entered into negotiations with Nestl UK in late 2002 to market the straw in the UK but negotiations broke down.

The legal claim alleges that without Unistraw’s consent Nestl “manufactured, offered and stocked” Magic Straws in the Sipahh design. Unistraw’s lawyers want Nestl to stop production.

A Nestl spokeswoman said the company intended to “vigorously defend” itself against the lawsuit and denied any breach of confidence.