Sightlines — Ashai Settles Legal Dispute with Brewing Rival Suntory

Michael Kiser

THE GIST
Ashai Group Holdings Ltd of Tokyo, Japan has settled a legal dispute with rival Japanese brewery Suntory out of court. Suntory had accused Asahi of infringing on its patents for non-alcoholic beer flavour drinks by filing a complaint with the Tokyo district court back in January 2015.

WHY IT MATTERS
Non-alcoholic drinks are huge generators of revenue for breweries in much of Europe and countries such as Japan in which Suntory holds the biggest share of the local market with sales equaling 7.2 million cases alone according to figures from 2015.

It made sense for Suntory to challenge its biggest rival, who have the fastest growing and second largest share of the same market. The same figures from 2014 reported that Asahi shifted 6.3 million cases in the same period. If Suntory had been successful with their complaint, Asahi would have had to cease production of its product immediately, creating huge losses and allowing Suntory massively increased access to the market.

This case reminds me of the IPA dispute filed by Lagunitas against Sierra Nevada from January 2015. With the vast sums of money now tied up in these markets, it makes sense that brewery owners would try anything to protect their brand, including competition via the courts. 

— Matthew Curtis