Date
26 May 2017
Coca-Cola doesn’t have exclusive rights to use “zero’’ for its soft-drink brands, US trademark authorities say. Photo: Bloomberg
Coca-Cola doesn’t have exclusive rights to use “zero’’ for its soft-drink brands, US trademark authorities say. Photo: Bloomberg

US watchdog issues mixed opinion in Coke Zero dispute

Coca-Cola Co. doesn’t have exclusive rights to use the word “zero”,  US trademark authorities said, but they agreed to register it for the company’s diet-soda and sports-drink brands, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board issued the written opinion to try to resolve a nearly decade-long dispute between Coca-Cola and rival Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inc.

But it leaves the door open to more legal challenges over the use of “zero’’ in the beverage industry, the newspaper said.

In 2003 Coca-Cola tried to register US rights to the word “zero” for its zero-calorie drinks, including Coke Zero, Sprite Zero and Powerade Zero.

But in 2007 Dr. Pepper, which markets Diet Rite Pure Zero, challenged Coke’s bid, arguing that “zero’’ is a generic term and shorthand for zero calories when it comes to beverage brands.

Giving Coke exclusive rights to the word would grant “a monopoly to use a common English word in its common English meaning’’, the company said.

But Coke argued that “zero’’, when used as part of a beverage brand name, is exclusively associated with its company’s products because of extensive marketing and sales dominance.

Dr. Pepper’s Diet Rite Pure Zero and other competing brands that use “zero” confuse consumers, it said.

After reviewing 170 filings and more than 5,000 pages of documentation, the Patent and Trademark Office’s trial and appeal board said Dr. Pepper hadn’t proven that “zero’’ is a generic term among beverages, the Journal reported.

It also said Coke’s “zero’’ soda and sports drink brands had “acquired distinctiveness’’ and qualified as “substantially exclusive”.

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