Axl sues Dr Pepper over Guns N' Roses giveaway

LONDON - Dr Pepper has run into a legal battle with Axl Rose, who is claiming its recent Guns N' Roses-themed promotion was an unauthorised use of the band's brand and exploited his reputation.

The company and its PR agency Ketchum took a risk earlier this year when it offered a free can of soda to everyone in the US if Guns N Roses delivered their long-awaited album 'Chinese Democracy' before the end of 2008.

When the album emerged, the company announced people would have to get their free can by registering their details on its website for 24 hours after midnight on November 23 to get a coupon through the post to redeem at any retailer selling its range.

Now Rose has turned on the company, criticising the way it conducted the giveaway as well as seeking payment for using the Guns N' Roses brand.

A letter to the Dr Pepper Snapple Group from Rose and Guns N' Roses lawyer Alan Gutman reads: "In and of itself this campaign brazenly violated our clients' rights in numerous respects. Unfortunately, Dr Pepper has now magnified the damage this campaign has caused through its appalling failure to make good on a promise it made to the American people."

Rose initially said on his band's website in March he was "happy" to have Dr Pepper's support.

Dr Pepper has issued the following statement: "For us, this was a fun giveaway that has always been about the fans, and we've taken great steps to fulfil it, including extending the window for the giveaway from 24 to 42 hours, adding a toll-free line to handle consumer requests for the coupons, and setting up an interactive voice recorder to accept coupon requests.

"This was one of the largest responses we have ever received for a giveaway, and we're happy we were able to satisfy the thirst of so many Dr Pepper fans."

However, many American consumers attempting to get hold of vouchers from the Dr Pepper website could not get on as it became overloaded with visitors and the server crashed. It has been reported that Dr Pepper may now re-run the promotion allowing those who did not get their free soda to sign up again.

The case echoes another recent big brand promotion that backfired when its celebrity subject decided to take legal action for unauthorised use of his brand.

Fast food chain Taco Bell ran a print ad campaign this year featuring a letter encouraging rap star 50 Cent to change his name to "79 Cent", "89 Cent" or "99 Cent" for one day to match its menu prices and promising to donate $10,000 to the charity of his choice if he did.

The star took exception to the campaign, to not being paid for the use of his image and not being alerted to the fact it was about to run, and has brought a lawsuit against Taco Bell.