A spokesperson for Diageo said: "We can confirm that we have issued legal proceedings against Sainsbury’s in relation to an intellectual property matter.”
In April, Sainsbury’s launched a gin-based drink called Pitcher’s that is designed to be mixed with fruit and lemonade. They described it in its launch release as their ‘own version of the UK’s favourite summer cocktail’.
The Diageo spokesperson continued: “It would be inappropriate for us to comment further other than to say that Sainsbury’s is a valued customer of Diageo and we hope will continue to be so for many years. It is Diageo’s firm intent that our strong trading relationship should not be affected by this discrete dispute."
The case could lead to further claims being brought by brand owners, according to a law firm.
Law firm Browne Jacobson said brand owners have been reluctant to take on the big supermarkets but that could soon change if Diageo is successful.