US Trademark Board Allows Coke—and Others—to Use ‘Zero’ in Product Names

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Coca-Cola Coke Zero

Coca-Cola would loved to have “zero” all to itself, but it would require a lot more legal maneuvering to make that happen.

A ruling by the US Trademark Trial and Appeal Board says that while Coke is more than welcome to register “zero” for non-calorie drinks, other companies can do the same for their zero-calorie drinks as well. Since this isn’t exactly what Coke had wanted to hear, the expectation is that the legal battle that has gone on for nearly a decade could continue for a while longer, the Atlanta Journal Constitution expects.

The battle started when Dr Pepper Snapple Group, which markets Diet Rite Pure Zero, filed suit in 2007 to keep Coke from registering such beverages as Coke Zero and Sprite Zero. Now the case, if it continues, will go into the US federal courts.

One of Dr Pepper’s arguments against letting Coke use the word is that it would give the soda giant “a monopoly to use a common English word in its common English meaning,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

In addition, Dr Pepper noted that are more than 30 other beverages not owned by Coke that used the term “zero,” such as Monster Energy Zero Ultra, Virgil’s Zero and Arnold Palmer Zero, reports Fortune.

In its May 23 ruling that followed review of more than 5,000 pages of evidence, the three-judge panel said that Coke’s use of “zero” “had acquired distinctiveness in connection with soft drinks and could be registered as a trademark,” according to WorldiPreview.com. However, Coke doesn’t get to keep “zero” all to itself and must let Dr Pepper and any other beverage maker market low-calorie drinks called “zero” as well.

Both Coke and Dr Pepper seemed satisfied with the result, the Journal noted, but the latter said it may consider taking the whole thing back to court on appeal.

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