‘Coca Cola’ Tastes the Feeling of ‘Zero’

After thirteen years of long battle, Coca-Cola Company has finally  been granted registration for the trademark “zero’’ for its zero-calorie drinks, namely Coca-Cola Zero, Sprite Zero and Powerade Zero by the US trademark authorities.

The company had been trying to register the trademark “zero” in US since 2003. However, Dr Pepper who sells a diet soda, called Diet Rite Pure Zero, challenged this effort by Coca-Cola in the year 2007 for registration of the word “zero”.  Dr.Pepper argued that “zero” is a generic term which is used frequently by beverage firms for drinks which contain no calories. He also further argued that “zero” being a common English word cannot be monopolized by anyone. Coca-Cola in its defence put forth the argument that the word “zero” is a distinctive label for its zero-calorie drinks and “zero” is also a part of the brand name on its products. The Company furthered stated that it has carried out extensive marketing initiatives to popularize the brand name and hence seeks for registration of the same.

The US Trademark Appellate Board passed a favorable order for Coca-Cola, based on the following reasons:

  1. Coca-Cola was able to prove that the word “zero” has “acquired distinctiveness’’ with the extensive usage and marketing of the brand name “zero” by the Company.
  2. Dr Pepper could not convincingly prove that “zero” is a generic term, which is used by beverage companies.

The Appellate board however ruled that, it will not stop Dr. Pepper from using the word “zero” , as Coca-Cola was not able to prove that Dr Pepper’s product caused consumer confusion. The Appellate board agreed with the argument put forth by Dr Pepper that the brand name of the product Diet Rite Pure Zero is inherently distinctive. The U.S. trademark authorities (Trademark Trial and Appellate Board ) said  that Coca-Cola Company  doesn’t have exclusive rights to use the trademark “zero’’. However, they agreed to register it for the company’s diet-soda and sports-drink brands. The Appellate board also stated that its ruling should not be taken as a precedent and that any dispute arising on the use of “zero” in the beverage industry should be determined on its own merits.

At this juncture, it is pertinent to note that, the trademark authorities in U.K and China have rejected trademark applications filed by Coca-Cola Company to register the trademark “zero” for its brands.

Authored by Sambhavi Patnaik

Sources 1, 2