Case Study

In the case of Coca-Cola Co. v. Koke Co. of America, the Coca-Cola Co. sought to enjoin The Koke Co. of America and other beverage companies from, among other things, using the word Koke for their products. Koke contended that the Coca-Cola trademark was a fraudulent representation and that Coca-Cola was thus not entitled to an injunction. Koke alleged that Coca-Cola, by its use of the Coca-Cola name, represented that the beverage contained cocaine (from coca leaves). The court granted the injunction against Koke, but an appellate court reversed. Coca-Cola appealed to the United States Supreme Court.

The United States Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s decision. The Supreme Court acknowledged that before 1900 Coca-Cola’s good will was enhanced by the presence of a small amount of cocaine, but that the cocaine had long been eliminated from the drink. The Court underscored that Coca-Cola was not “a medicine” and that its attraction did not lay in producing “a toxic effect.” Since 1900 sales had increased. The name had come to characterize a well known beverage to be had almost anywhere “rather than a compound of particular substances.” The Court noted that before this suit was brought Coca-Cola had advertised that the public would not find cocaine in Coca-Cola. “[I]t would be going too far to deny the plaintiff relief against a palpable fraud because possibly here and there are ignorant person might call for the drink with the hope for incipient cocaine intoxication.”

Should the principles applied in this case to the confusingly similar product of a domestic manufacturer also apply to the goods of foreign producers? Why or why not?