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Coca-Cola, competitors battling over the word 'zero'

When a Trademark fight has high enough stakes, resolving the matter can take years. Often, neither side is willing to settle out of court, dragging out the dispute until a court or government entity finally issues a decision. At the same time, the dispute could be over something seemingly small, though to the parties, it could be worth millions of dollars.

In one particularly high-profile example, Coca-Cola is locked in a battle with competitor Dr. Pepper Snapple Group over the right to put the word “zero” on its cans and bottles. Specifically, Coca-Cola has spent more than a decade arguing that it has the exclusive right to do so on its Coke Zero products.

Meanwhile, Dr. Pepper has products like Diet Rite Pure Zero, and other soft drink makers either have products labeled “zero” or would like to sell one.

Coca-Cola first laid claim on “zero” in March 2005, when it filed to register a Trademark for “Coca-Cola Zero.” Two years later, Dr. Pepper and PepsiCo challenged the filing. They said that “zero” is not a term unique to Coke products, but merely refers to soft drinks that contain zero calories. In its challenge, Dr. Pepper cited 32 drink products with “zero” in its name that Coke does not own, such as Monster Energy Zero Ultra and Arnold Palmer Zero.

The matter may finally reach an end, according to Fortune. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is believed to be ready to issue a ruling sometime this summer.

Small businesses in Florida are unlikely ever to find themselves in such high-stakes Trademark disputes. But their trademarks are nevertheless highly valuable, and the help of an Intellectual Property attorney might save your business.

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