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Coca Cola crack down on ‘Honest Coffees’ amid trade mark bully claims

Written by Ellis Sweetenham on 30 November 2017

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An important element of a successful trade mark portfolio, is the way in which you enforce your trade marks against others.

We have seen recently a rare example of when a big brand asserts their trade mark rights but in a friendly way, when Netflix sent the kindest Cease and Desist letter to a ‘Stranger Things’ themed bar.

However, not all corporations favour the nice approach, arguably including Coca Cola.

As part of their huge trade mark portfolio, Coca Cola own the trade mark for ‘Honest Tea’. This mark is registered in connection with beverages.

It is this mark which has been the basis of their latest challenge against a small business.

Honest Coffees is a coffee shop based in Plymouth which has been run by Wyatt and Grace Cavalier since 2013.

They recently received a letter from Coca Cola ordering them to change the name of their shop and recent offshoot ‘Honest Milk’ or face court action.

The power and resources of Coca Cola against an independent coffee shop based in the UK is a clear unbalance to anyone and has resulted in accusations of ‘trade mark bullying’ by Coca Cola.

Speaking to Plymouth’s The Herald, Wyatt has deemed Coca Cola bullies and is worried that this could amount to them losing everything and having to start from scratch.

However, this case is more interesting than others as there are a number of varying factors which could swing the power.

Firstly, it is important to say that while an unbalance of power is clear, this does not mean Coca Cola’s threats are not justified. They have a registered trade mark which is similar to the one being used by Mr and Mrs Cavalier. This would give them grounds to challenge the use of ‘Honest Coffees’.

However, they would do this on the basis of their ‘Honest Tea’ mark and that is the potential sticking point.

While the mark is successfully registered at the moment, there may be grounds to challenge this.

Firstly, the mark is registered in classes covering beverages which contain tea. With the mark containing the word ‘tea’, there is definitely an argument to suggest that the mark is descriptive of the goods they provide.

Secondly, the mark consists of the word ‘Honest’. This term may be deemed as a laudatory adjective, which may give an impression of the quality of the products.

Therefore, it seems that the mark as a whole may indeed be deemed as descriptive and would therefore be invalided by a court if challenged.

However, this is not all. It is a requirement that an EU trade mark have been consistently used in the first five years of registration.

The ‘Honest Tea’ trade mark has been registered for 10 years, but only last year were products launched under the name.

Again, this would raise questions against the mark’s validity.

If the Cavaliers decided to fight against this, they may have a more even battle on their hands then they first thought.

This is certainly one to grab yourself a cuppa, sit back and watch it unfold.

 

If you'd like to know more about this article please send an email to Ellis Sweetenham quoting the article title and any questions you might have, alternatively call the office number on 02380 235 979 or send an enquiry through our contact form.

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