Coca-Cola Beats ‘Zero’ Trademark Challenge

     CHICAGO (CN) – Coca-Cola did not violate Blue Spring Water’s “Naturally Zero” trademark with its “Zero” line of soft drinks, a federal judge ruled.
     Blue Spring Water Co. sued Coca-Cola in federal court for violating its “Zero” trademark that it uses to sell its “Naturally Zero” spring water.
     Blue Spring claimed it had proposed to sell its “Naturally Zero” water products to Coca-Cola only to find later that Coca-Cola tried to trademark the term “zero” for its “Sprite Zero” drink.
     Coca-Cola introduced Sprite Zero, a zero calorie diet soft drink, into the U.S. in 2004, the same year Blue Spring stopped bottled Naturally Zero water.
     Since 1998, only 500,000 Naturally Zero water bottles were sold, primarily to gas station, sales totaling less than $150,000.
     While Blue Spring indicated it might start using the mark again in 2010, by that time Coca-Cola had introduced Coke Zero, Fanta Zero, Pibb Zero, and other Zero products to the U.S. market.
     U.S. District Judge John Lee found for the Coca-Cola Company Wednesday, ruling that the Blue Spring’s “Zero” mark was not protectable because it was merely descriptive of the product.
     “The Seventh Circuit has held that such immediately apparent terms that describe characteristics of a product to a potential consumer are merely descriptive,” Lee said. Similarly, “the phrase ‘naturally zero’ describes the ‘quality of the water, purity, no sugar, no calories, you know, a drink about nothing,'” as Blue Spring’s owner described it.
     And even if the trademark were protectable, Blue Spring abandoned it in 2004, and never took action on its plan to reintroduce Naturally Zero products into the marketplace.
     “Plaintiffs seek to explain their non-use as a ‘direct result of defendant’s infringement,’ and focus upon their efforts to combat defendant’s alleged infringement of their mark,” Lee said.
     However, “plaintiffs have not provided this court with any authority for the proposition that ‘pursuing’ infringement claims demonstrates an intent to resume use sufficient to overcome the prima facie evidence of abandonment in the record,” the judge concluded.

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