There’s a battle brewing over tea trademarks.
Last month, pomegranate beverage maker POM Wonderful filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California alleging that Bai Brands had infringed on its “Super Tea” trademark.
The product in question is Bai’s Antioxidant Supertea line, one of a range of low-calorie, antioxidant-infused beverages marketed by the New Jersey-based company. Bai, now owned by Dr Pepper Snapple Group, introduced the product in 2015. Attorneys representing POM and its parent The Wonderful Company are arguing that Bai infringes on POM’s trademark by causing a likelihood of confusion with the “Super Tea” mark.
In the suit, POM’s lawyers state that POM’s “SUPER TEA Mark was custom designed to be distinctive, innovative and recognizable to consumers so that the SUPER TEA Mark would act as a source-identifier.” They argue that “there is a substantial goodwill associated with the SUPER TEA Mark” due to the years of time, money and resources the company has dedicated towards developing and marketing the line.
A cursory search of U.S. trademark registration records indicates that both companies may indeed have reasonable arguments to present with regard to their ownership of the term. POM has used “Super Tea” on its tea products since 2009, one year after records show the company acquired the rights to the mark under the classification of Goods and Services defined as “sports drinks containing caffeine.”
Records show that Bai registered the marks “Bai5 Antioxidant Supertea” and “Bai Antioxidant Supertea” on May 4 and Oct. 26, 2015, respectively, for for tea-based beverages, with fruit flavoring and antioxidants.
According to the suit, to “further protect its established common law rights,” POM filed an new trademark application on May 4, 2016 with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to secure the rights to the “Super Tea” mark for “non-alcoholic beverages with tea flavor; fruit juice concentrate; fruit flavored beverages” and “non-alcoholic beverages containing fruit juices.”
POM sent Bai a cease-and-desist letter regarding the use of the term later that month, on May 16, but Bai didn’t stop its trademark infringement, according to the suit.
POM is seeking to enjoin Bai from further infringing on its trademark, and for all infringing products, packaging, advertising and promotional materials to be recalled, seized, impounded and destroyed, according to the lawsuit. The brand is also asking for compensated for its legal fees and any other relief the court deems just to provide.
Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc., which completed its acquisition Bai for $1.7 billion earlier this month, was not named in the suit.
A representative of POM declined to comment on this story. Bai did not respond to requests for comment.