Trademarking the Ego: Dunkin’ Donuts Wants You to KNOW It offers “the Best Coffee in America” - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Trademarking the Ego: Dunkin’ Donuts Wants You to KNOW It offers “the Best Coffee in America”

Trademarking the Ego: Dunkin’ Donuts Wants You to KNOW It offers “the Best Coffee in America”

Earned accolades are one thing; self-assigned praises are quite another.

Consumers are constantly confronted with advertisements claiming a business is the “greatest” in its field, or offers the “best” goods. Often, it is left to the consumer to determine if that claim is true. It is through consumption that the consumer decides exactly which product or service is actually superior; after all, they must spend their coffee money somewhere. The company with the higher sales in a particular field necessarily has the stronger argument that it actually is the “best” or the “greatest” among its competition. One company would like to make it official.

Dunkin’ Donuts wants to solidify its claims to “the best coffee in America.” According to reports, the company has applied to trademark the phrase “best coffee in America” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Dunkin’ Donuts no longer wants to compete for the title, but wants to have the absolute legal right to advertise its product as the best. In doing so, it would effectively prevent competitors from making the same claim.

Does the consumer think Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is the best?

Surely, the answer depends on the individual. It is clear, however, that Dunkin’ Donuts is one big fish among many. Starbucks and, in recent years, McDonald’s have claimed huge portions of the coffee-drinking population, evidenced by constant advertising and growth in recent years. According to a BIGResearch survey, Dunkin’ Donuts has been displaced by McDonald’s as the most preferred coffee chain, after Starbucks. Then, there are big names in coffee made in the home, for example, Folgers. From my perspective, that of a coffee-addict, Dunkin’ Donuts does not own the coffee market. Even if one consumer prefers Dunkin’ Donuts coffee over any other, there is little evidence of market domination to demonstrate public agreement that Dunkin’ Donuts, in fact, has the best coffee.

Does it matter what a company thinks of its own product?

Confidence can only go so far. Even if Dunkin’ Donuts is granted a trademark, and so tells the consumer that its coffee is best, there is no guarantee that the public would blindly accept the claim. The public is so bombarded with advertising claims of being the “best” in so many fields, the value of owning the phrase in convincing the consumer that the product is actually the best, seems quite low. The true value of trademarking the phrase is instead preventing other coffee brands from claiming it.

As unconvincing as it might be, there is an inherent value is ensuring that a competing coffee company can never contest the “best coffee in America” phrase by using it to describe their own product. That inherent value might be ego-related in that Dunkin’ Donuts legally bullies other coffee companies out of using the phrase, or psychosomatic if the consumer sees and hears the claim from Dunkin’ Donuts and no one else. So, although it may not matter what Dunkin’ Donuts thinking of its coffee product, it may matter that they have the sole right to claim the “best coffee in America.”

Whether the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office grants the “best coffee in America” trademark to Dunkin’ Donuts is to be seen. But simply by applying for the trademark, one this is clear: Dunkin’ Donuts has a high opinion of its coffee. Egotistical? Maybe. Strategic? Definitely.

Brooke Luxenburg