Sweet Leaf Tea has some not-so-sweet news: the company could
be headed for court over a trademark dispute.
The Austin-based company filed a suit May 29 against United
American Industries Inc., which produces stevia sweeteners under the Sweet Leaf
name, the Austin Business Journal reported.
The suit cites a cease and desist letter Sweet Leaf received
last month from United American, who accused Sweet Leaf of trademark
Sweet Leaf doesn’t own federally registered trademark rights
for the Sweet Leaf name, but it can lay a common law claim to the rights
because the company spent millions of dollars building the brand over the past
decade, the ABJ reported.
Company founder Clayton Christopher told the ABJ that Sweet Leaf and United are
already working toward an agreement, and possible negotiations could include
limiting both brands’ use of the name to their respective product categories or
Craig Tyler, an attorney at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
PC, who represents Sweet Leaf Tea, told the ABJ
that that the companies have four months to reach an agreement before
litigation moves forward.
Despite the conflict, Christopher was upbeat and said losing
the Sweet Leaf name would not be disastrous for the company.
“I’ve even said ‘Sweet Leaf’ has pigeonholed us a
little bit because we have non-sweet flavors and diet flavors,”
Christopher told the ABJ. “I’m
an entrepreneur; I’m the eternal optimist. We would take lemons and make
lemonade: it’s what we know how to do best.”