Dunkin’ Takes E-Cigarette Maker to Court Over Branding

September 27, 2023 · Green Market Report

Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc., parent company of Dunkin’ Donuts, has sued an e-cigarette maker in New York federal court over trademark violations and more.

The lawsuit contends that Singh Handicraft Corp.’s branding for its e-cigarettes is strikingly similar to Dunkin’s distinctive design. Specifically, the disposable vaporizers, shaped like an iced coffee cup and a glazed doughnut, display a logo that mirrors Dunkin’s signature orange and pink color palette and rounded font.

According to court documents, “Defendants have merely replaced the term ‘Vapin” for Dunkin’ in the Dunkin’ Donuts (stylized) mark and an electronic vaporizer for a coffee cup in the coffee icon.”

The doughnut giant believes that the Farmingdale, New York-based e-cigarette company is purposefully linking its products to Dunkin’, potentially leading to customer confusion.

“Certain flavors in which Defendants offer the disposable vapes under the infringing mark are identical to flavors Dunkin’ offers for its coffee products (e.g., White Mocha, Iced Cappuccino),” the suit said.

Dunkin’ alleges multiple infringements, including claims of federal trademark and service mark infringement, unfair competition, and false designation of origin. They also highlight trademark dilution and violations of New York business and common laws.

Earlier this year, Singh Handicraft, led by CEO Jayneet Dua, sought to register the “Vapin’ Donuts & Design” mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Dunkin’ Brands contends the application infringes and dilutes its long-established trademark rights.

“Upon information and belief, Defendants were aware of Dunkin’ and its exclusive rights in the Dunkin’ marks when they began selling their products under the infringing mark – without license or consent from Dunkin’,” the suit said.

Making matters worse, the company pointed to Vapin’ Donuts’ marketing strategy, particularly on Instagram, where hashtags such as #coffee, #coffeevape, and #donutsforlife are frequently used. It alleges that this is a deliberate attempt by the defendants to associate its vaping devices with the iconic doughnut brand.

Additionally, Dunkin’ accused Singh of intentionally marketing to underage consumers, a move that Dunkin’ describes as “morally reprehensible and illegal.” Advertising tobacco products that play into candy and dessert themes have previously attracted scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission, with giants like Juul being forced to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to several states.

Dunkin’ Brands, which has been a staple since the 1950s and boasts billions in global sales each year, seeks an injunction, damages, and recovery of legal fees. The company argues that the alleged association with vaping, especially in the context of marketing that might target younger consumers, could hurt its reputation. (Full Story)

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