Splenda sues Dunkin’ Donuts for trademark infringement

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

Dunkin' Donuts has allegedly hoodwinked its customers into believing it uses the popular Splenda sweetener. Pic: ©iStock/Oliver Hoffmann
Dunkin' Donuts has allegedly hoodwinked its customers into believing it uses the popular Splenda sweetener. Pic: ©iStock/Oliver Hoffmann

Related tags: Pleading

Heartland Consumer Products has filed a lawsuit against Dunkin’ Brands and its franchisees for allegedly  misleading consumers into believing they’re getting Splenda when it’s actually a “Chinese-made, [unbranded] sucralose”.

According to the complaint filed in US District Court in Indianapolis, Dunkin stopped purchasing Splenda from Heartland in April 2016.

However, the Carmel-based company alleges Dunkin employees continue to tell customers that the sweetener they provide is the American-made sucralose brand. Some Dunkin’ employees even believed Splenda goes into making some of its baked treats.

Dunkin’ Donuts’ spokesperson Justin Drake said the company was unable to comment due to pending litigation.

A sour note

Heartland claims it has received numerous complaints from customers who visited Dunkin’ Donuts.

“Customers have complained that the sweetener added to their Dunkin’ Donuts products results in a funny taste, or that they are otherwise not certain what sweetener Dunkin’ Donuts is giving them,”​ alleged the lawsuit.

Heartland accused Dunkin' of using packaging that’s similar to Splenda’s. Both sweeteners come in pale yellow paper packets, although the coffee and doughnut franchise’s’ packaging does indicate it is manufactured for them by Chicago-based Merisant.

Americans sweet on Splenda

Last year, Heartland purchased the Splenda brand from McNeil Nutritionals, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary.

Nielsen research has found that Splenda is the most popular brand of low-calorie sweeteners in the US, commanding a 32% market share. US net trade sales are expected to be around $163m in 2016.

Heartland has requested an injunction to stop Dunkin' from representing that it uses Splenda products.

The 22-page complaint drafted by Indianapolis law firm Taft, Stettnius & Hollister alleged Dunkin' is "irreparably damaging the value of Heartland’s iconic Splenda trademark and other marks."

The company is asking for an undisclosed amount for damages.

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2 comments

Sweet revenge?

Posted by Andrei Mincov - Trademark Factory®,

Not really a case of trademark infringement. What Splenda is claiming is that Dunkin Donuts is misleading its customers into believing that Dunkin is still using Splenda sweetener, even though Dunkin has not been purchasing Splenda since April 2016. Splenda is saying that Dunkin customers who dislike the new taste may draw negative conclusions about Splenda because Dunkin is not doing enough to inform them of the switch. An innovative way to use trademark law to keep a client.

Andrei Mincov
Founder and CEO of Trademark Factory® ( https://trademarkfactory.com ), the only firm in the world where licensed lawyers and trademark agents will help you register your trademarks with a free comprehensive trademark search, for a single all-inclusive flat fee, with a 100% money-back guarantee.

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Food fraud

Posted by overseaschinese,

So what does this mean to food safety and food fraud.

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