Intellectual Property

A Few Lines from Hamlet Best Describe Dr. Pepper’s Recent Trademark Suit against Oldest Bottler

If alive today, Shakespeare would be a Dr. Pepper drinker. The prolific bard (the general consensus being that he wrote 37 plays) would want a soft drink of prolific taste (Dr. Pepper boasts 23 flavors).  In light of Shakespeare's likely affinity for Dr. Pepper, I offer a few lines of Hamlet as an ode to Dr. Pepper's recent trademark filing:

Horatio: Have after. To what issue will this come?

Marcellus: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark town of Dublin, Texas.

Yesterday, Dr. Pepper filed a trademark infringement suit against Dr. Pepper Bottling Company of Dublin, Texas (Defendant). Defendant is one of Dr. Pepper's licensed bottlers for portions of six central Texas counties. Defendant promotes itself as the oldest Dr. Pepper bottling plant in the world.

Dr. Pepper alleges that Defendant violated trademark law and the parties' licensing agreement by marking its products with the designation "Dublin Dr Pepper."

According to the complaint:

Defendant's DUBLIN DR PEPPER Logo creates confusion that should not exist as to the DR PEPPER Mark and creates confusion for consumers and the public by suggesting a distinction that does not exist, and which has been authorized by Plaintiff, when that is not the case. The beverage that Defendant distributes is "made in strict accordance with the instructions and formula" provided to Defendant by Plaintiff using concentrate purchased from Plaintiff, and Defendant has done nothing to change the recipe.3 Nor is the beverage produced at Defendant's Dublin plant -- it is produced by another bottler located in Temple, Texas and sold by Defendant under the unauthorized logo.

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To further compound the problems with Defendant's conduct, Defendant sells its products labeled  "Dublin Dr Pepper," but has the product produced by a different bottler in Temple, Texas, outside its territory. This act of promoting an image of sourcing product from a certain town (in this case, the town of Dublin, Texas) while bottling the product elsewhere further trades on the suggestion that "Dublin Dr Pepper" is somehow different from DR PEPPER and authorized by Plaintiff, when it is not.

Dr. Pepper asserts that Defendant's modified Dr. Pepper mark falsely suggests that "Dublin" Dr. Pepper is a unique or distinct product authorized by Dr. Pepper. Consumers are likely to be misled into believing that "Dublin" denotes a premium form of Dr. Pepper or that the word "Dublin" denotes a distinct flavor. This, Dr. Pepper asserts, "risks the entirety of the Dr. Pepper portfolio of flavors and varieties."

Dr. Pepper also asserts that Defendant violated the parties' licensing agreement by selling outside authorized areas and by selling unauthorized/unapproved merchandise (jewelry, t-shirts, mugs, koozies and magnets) bearing the Dublin Dr. Pepper logo or the Dr. Pepper mark.

For relief, Dr. Pepper is requesting, among other things, a permanent injunction, termination of the license agreement, and a declaration that defendant has no trademark rights or other rights in the Dublin Dr. Pepper logo or the alleged mark "Dublin Dr Pepper."

View or download the complaint filed in Dr Pepper v. Dr Pepper Bottling, 11cv398 (E.D. TX 6-28-11).

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