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Suntory in beer battle against rival Asahi

Suntory is suing Japanese rival Asahi and calling for a court to suspend sales and production of its non-alcohol beer-flavoured drinks amid claims of trademark infringement.

A lawsuit was filed against Asahi Breweries Limited on Tuesday with Suntory accusing the brewer of infringing on one of its own patents for non-alcoholic beer-flavoured drinks, as reported by the Japan Times. 

Asahi has hit back insisting that Suntory’s patent was invalid adding that it would fight the claim, which was lodged in the Tokyo District Court in January.

Demand for nonalcoholic beer-flavoured drinks and ready-to-drink cocktails has grown in recent years as beer sales have fallen.

The changing tastes of Japanese drinkers have seen brewers, such as Asahi and Suntory, battle to retain their attention by launching “beer-like” beverages, while at the same time sweeter, cocktail concoctions have gained popularity. 

Suntory currently holds the biggest share of the market for non-alcoholic beer-flavoured drinks, with sales totalling 7.2 million cases in 2014, followed by Asahi with 6.3 million cases of Asahi Dry Zero sold.

The hearing was expected to start today.

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