The US based donut and coffeehouse company Dunkin' Donuts, which operates from more than 11,300 locations worldwide, has sought to protect its slogan 'America Runs on Dunkin' from alleged trade mark infringement.
Dunkin Donuts sent a cease and desist letter to independent coffeehouse Mike's Coffee over the use of the phrase 'Plainville and North now runs on Mike's'. Mike's Coffee is based in North Attleboro, Massachusetts and is ran by Steve Copoulos who decided to reopen the coffeehouse after his father chose to no longer lease the site to Dunkin' Donuts.
In the letter to Mr Copoulos, Dunkin' Donuts made clear that it had owned the trademark to the slogan 'America Runs on Dunkin' since 2006 and that Mr Copoulos' own phrase was a direct infringement of their own and likely to cause confusion amongst the public by associating Mike's Coffee with Dunkin' Donuts. In response Mr Copoulos pointed out that he wanted his coffeehouse to be the complete opposite of the style and service offered by Dunkin' Donuts.
Mr Copoulos suspects that Dunkin' Donuts had an ulterior motive in sending out the cease and desist letter given that his father refused to sell the land on which Mike's Coffee is located to Dunkin' Donuts. Mr Copoulos pointed out that at every offer to buy the land from his father, Dunkin' Donuts made clear that they would set up a rival store in the town should a sale not proceed. Dunkin' Donuts have since set up a store nearby to Mike's Coffee.
Regardless of the reasoning behind Dunkin' Donuts sending out a cease and desist letter, the letter itself has been effective. Mr Copoulos has since removed his slogan from the windows of Mike's Coffee with a new one which reads 'Plainville & North powered by Mike's' as he continues in competing with Dunkin' Donuts. Despite this press coverage of the dispute has not been particularly favourable to Dunkin' Donuts and Mr Copoulos has almost certainly benefitted from the publicity. This is further proof that companies should consider the public reaction to any action which may, in situations such as this, do more damage to their brand than the original infringement.
in: EU/International, Trade Marks