Details of the case
In 2021, Stamford-based canned-coffee maker Rise Brewing Co. filed a lawsuit against PepsiCo, the multinational food and beverage company, over the use of the word "rise" in their respective product names. Rise Brewing argued Mtn Dew Rise was "designed to specifically target the morning coffee drinker" and "marketed as a morning caffeinated drink to replace ready-to-drink coffee drinks such as Rise."
PepsiCo responded by stating that their use of the word "rise" was not intended to infringe upon Rise Brewing's trademark, and that expert surveys indicated confusion wasn't likely amongst the consumers.
PepsiCo is a multinational food and beverage corporation based in the United States. The company was founded in 1965 through the merger of Pepsi-Cola and Frito-Lay, and it has since grown to become one of the world's largest food and beverage companies. PepsiCo's product portfolio includes brands such as Pepsi, Lay's, Gatorade, Quaker Oats, and Tropicana, among others. The company has a strong presence in the global market and is known for its marketing campaigns, especially those featuring high-profile celebrities.
Rise Brewing Co., on the other hand, is a small craft coffee company based in Stamford. The company was founded in 2014 by two friends, Grant Gyesky and Jarrett McGovern, who wanted to create a healthier and more sustainable alternative to traditional coffee. Rise Brewing's product line includes nitro cold brew coffee in cans, kegs, and bottles, as well as a range of oat milk lattes. The company has gained a following among health-conscious and environmentally aware consumers, and it has received positive press coverage for its innovative products and business practices. Despite being a relatively small player in the coffee market, Rise Brewing has achieved significant growth and has expanded its distribution network to include major retailers such as Whole Foods and Amazon.
In November 2021, the U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield granted Rise Brewing's bid for a preliminary injunction on the basis that Rise Brewing had “demonstrated irreparable harm, a likelihood of success on the merits of its federal trademark claim and that the public interest weighs in favor of granting the injunction.” However, on July 22, 2022, a three-judge panel on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the preliminary injunction, according to CTInsider.
The Second Circuit opinion noted that "Rise" was a weak mark, and one that has been used more than 100 times in connection with "coffee, tea, bottled beverages, energy drinks, soft drinks" and other products to allude to an increase in energy, especially in the mornings. If there was room for plaintiff's use of 'Rise' in the already crowded coffee field, there would also be room for defendant's, especially on a product that is distinct from coffee.
The Second Circuit also found that the two products were not that similar in appearance, noting that "the two cans are different in size, proportion, style, color, and artwork." Even the sole similarity, the use of the word "Rise" in large bold letters, was presented in different ways. As such, the Second Circuit vacated the preliminary injunction, which means that PepsiCo is free to continue to manufacture and sell its Mtn Dew Rise Energy products once again.