Coca-Cola’s Challenge Loses Fizz as Court Refuses to Cancel US Trademark of Thums Up, Limca
In a major setback for Coca-Cola, a federal appeals court in the US has ruled that the company’s sales of Thums Up and Limca in India and other countries did not justify cancelling another company’s US trademarks for soft drinks with the same name.
According to a Reuters report, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit revived Meenaxi Enterprise Inc’s US trademarks after finding Coca-Cola failed to prove it suffered any harm in the United States that would give it a basis to challenge them.
Parle Bisleri introduced Limca lemon-lime soft drinks in India in 1971 and Thums Up cola there in 1978. Coca-Cola bought the rights to the drinks in 1993.
Thums Up and Limca are sold extensively in India and other countries in Asia and Africa. Coca-Cola also said importers have been selling them in America since at least 2005.
Meenaxi has been selling drinks with the same name to Indian grocers in the United States since 2008, and received federal trademarks for them in 2012. Coca-Cola asked the US Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the registrations in 2016.
The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board found Coca-Cola could bring the case because Meenaxi’s products could harm the reputation of its drinks among Indian-Americans. It cancelled the registrations after finding Meenaxi was trying to “dupe” US consumers.
The Federal Circuit said on Wednesday that the board should not have let Coca-Cola challenge the trademarks because the company did not show it had been injured in the United States.
Coca-Cola does not sell the drinks widely in America and did not demonstrate any lost sales from Meenaxi’s products, the court said. Sales of the drinks by third-party importers also did not establish standing for the company under trademark law.
The alleged harm to Coca-Cola’s reputation among the Indian-American community could not sustain the case either. The Federal Circuit said there was “no basis to assume that an American of Indian descent is aware of brands in India,” and the board’s opposite conclusion relied “at least in part on stereotyped speculation.”
The case is Meenaxi Enterprise Inc v. Coca-Cola Co, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, No. 21-2209.