Coca-Cola Company (NYSE:KO) Gets Mixed Results in Trademark Dispute

Coca-Cola (coke)

The Coca-Cola Company might have a longer way to go in protecting the elements of its brands and trademarks. Wall Street Journal  reports that U.S. trademark authorities ruled that the firm doesn’t have exclusive rights to use “Zero” in its branding. In 2007, Dr Pepper challenged a move by Coke to register the word “zero” as a distinctive label for its zero-calorie drink.

Coca-Cola (coke)

The fact that Coke wanted to register a trademark for “zero” follows a pattern that has become all too common in the business world. Many firms have registered trademarks that should naturally have been part of the public heritage. For instance, Fritolay registered “Fritos” which is just Spanish for “fried” and Gucci has registered the letter “G”.

Mixed bag of results for Coca-Cola

Dr Pepper contended that it markets a Diet Rite Pure Zero, which is a diet soda and it would be against free market rules to grant Coca-Cola “a monopoly to use a common English word in its common English meaning.’’ Dr Pepper also contended that “zero” is a generic term used by beverage firms for beverage drinks with zero calories. Coca-Cola in its own case argued that “zero” is part of the brand name on its products because of its extensive marketing initiatives. The firm also argued that the opening the floor for rivals such as Dr Pepper to use “zero” might confuse consumers.

The Trademark Trial and Apple Board gave a ruling that seeks to find middle ground without closing the door to additional legal disputes going forward. The board ruled that Dr Pepper hasn’t convincingly proved that “zero” generic term used in beverages. The board also ruled that the use of “zero” in Coke’s branding shows “acquired distinctiveness’’ that should be noted “substantially exclusive.’’ The board however ruled that Coke has not proven that Dr Pepper’s Diet Rite Pure Zero causes consumer confusion because the full brand name of the product is “inherently distinctive.’’

The board also noted that its ruling should not be taken as a precedent and that any dispute arising on the use of “zero” in the beverage industry would be determined on its own merits. Interestingly, trademark authorities in the U.K and China have rejected moves by Coca-Cola to register a trademark on “zero” for its brands.

Coca-Coca goes patriotic with special edition cans

The Coca-Cola Company is coming out in full patriotic colors as it adopts the U.S. flag in a new can design. The patriotic branding on the can sports the red and white stripes draped around the can as well as a blue corner section. An interesting point is that the firm replaced the iconic stars on the flag with the lyrics of the song “I’m proud to be an American”. If you want to show your patriotic side with a can of coke, the special edition cans will be out on the markets from now until the fourth of July.

In other news, the Coca-Cola Company has announced that it is set to debut a Kangaroo bond offering of four year and eight-year bonds starting tomorrow. RBC Capital Markets, Deutsche Bank, and ANZ are bankrolling the new bond offering for the firm. The new bond offering follows the recent moves by some U.S. firms such as Apple and Intel who have initiated four and seven-year bond tenors.

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Victor Alagbe is a seasoned business and finance writer with a specialty in writing about how to invest for the long-term in healthcare, pharmacology, energy and tech stocks. His long-term focus is on stocks that provide a nice mix of growth and income. For the short term, he passionately writes about trading stock options for the excitement and leverage that stock options offer.

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