High Voltage Beverages sues Coca-Cola over Vault name

, Assistant Editor

A small beverage company has filed a trademark suit against Coca-Cola and asked a judge to order the beverage giant to remove Vault from the market.

High Voltage Beverages LLC produces Volt – primarily caffeine-enhanced sports drinks – and alleges that Vault violates their trademark because the two words sound and appear similar. Their suit, filed August 12 in the U.S. district court for the Western district of North Carolina, asks that Coke render any profits from Vault to HVB, remove Vault from the market, transfer drinkvault.com to HVB and pay for the costs of an advertising campaign to correct any confusion between the two products.

Coca-Cola did not return a request for comment on the suit, but the company could be in a tough spot, according to trademark attorney Gregg Sultan.

Sultan said courts tend to favor the plaintiff in cases involving products sold in convenience stores because, in that venue, “people aren’t thinking that much.”

Sultan said that even though Coca-Cola has used the Vault trademark since 2005, HVB filed an application for the Volt trademark in 1997 and obtained a registration for it in 2007. Therefore, if the court determines that the trademarks are confusingly similar, Coca-Cola may be forced to remove its product from the market. Additionally, Sultan said that although the names appear and sound similar, they are both dictionary words with different meanings.

“It could be a very interesting case actually,” Sultan said.

Recently-named president of HVB Bill Sipper called this a case of a big beverage company that “tried to just beat up a little guy,” and said he felt confident in his company’s chances to win the suit.

“We wouldn’t have filed it if we didn’t think it would succeed,” Sipper said.