Pernod Ricard has dismissed a lawsuit in the US claiming it stole the concept for a cocktail-making competition from a charity organisation.

The lawsuit, served late last year by The Charity Group through the US District Court of the Southern District of New York, alleges that Pernod Ricard USA and its subsidiary The Absolut Spirits Company breached a confidentiality contract and misappropriated Charity Group's idea.

The Charity Group claims that it pitched the idea of a reality series called Charity Mixology to Pernod and Absolut in late-2007. The series would consist of bartenders across the US competing to find 'America's Best Bartender', with cash prizes being donated to charities at the end of each episode.

The Charity Group alleges, however, that Pernod and Absolut "misappropriated the concept and structure of Charity Mixology", when, in late-2008, the two companies began promoting their own show, On the Rocks: The Search for America's Best Bartender.

"The only difference between the concept for the Absolut mixology show and Charity Mixology is that the Absolut mixology show does not feature or showcase philanthropic organisations or in any way benefit charity," the lawsuit claims.

When contacted today (15 July) by just-drinks, however, a spokesperson for Pernod Ricard USA said that the company believes the lawsuit is "totally without merit".

"Best bartender competitions are commonly used in the spirits and television industries," the spokesperson said. "Absolut was seeking an opportunity to be featured in a best bartender reality show before it heard from this particular promoter.

"We did not copy any aspect of the Charity Mixology concept in the show we sponsor on LXTV, On the Rocks, and we are confident that the Court will agree."

The lawsuit came to light this week, with the launch of a website designed to create awareness about the controversy. Absolutshame.com is being launched simultaneously in the US and in Australia this month, and will "artistically illustrate controversial topics from homeless, hate crimes, domestic violence and other demographics disadvantaged by the theft of the Charity Mixology programme", website creator Simon Rens said.