Indiana Trademark Litigation: Dunkin’ Donuts Sued on Allegations of Deceiving Consumers with Fake Splenda

Indianapolis, Indiana – Plaintiff Heartland Consumer Products LLC of Carmel, Indiana filed an intellectual property lawsuit in the Southern District of Indiana alleging trademark and trade dress infringement, trademark dilution and unfair competition under the Lanham Act, as well as related wrongdoing under the Indiana State Trademark Act, the common law of the State of Indiana and the Indiana Crime Victims Act.  The intellectual property at issue pertains to Splenda®, a Heartland trademark under which it offers sucralose, a low-calorie sweetener.

Defendants in the litigation are Dunkin’ Brands, Inc. and Dunkin’ Donuts Franchised Restaurants LLC Untitled-1-300x102of Canton, Massachusetts.  They are accused of “deceiving customers into believing the Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants carry Splenda® Brand Sweetener,” by both tacitly and affirmatively misrepresenting that the non-Splenda sucralose product that the Dunkin’ Defendants offer is, in fact, Heartland’s Splenda.  Plaintiff contends that consumers were confused about whether the sweetener that the Dunkin’ Defendants offered was Splenda and that some have complained that adding the other sweetener to their Dunkin’ Donuts products imparted a “funny taste.”

Defendants discontinued their agreement to purchase and offer Heartland’s Splenda in April 2016.  According to the Indiana complaint, following that decision, Defendants began offering sweetener in yellow packets similar to the single-serving packets in which Splenda is offered to the public.  Plaintiff contends that, when asked, Defendants in a “clear majority of stores affirmatively represented, through their agents or employees, that non-Splenda® sucralose sweetener was instead Splenda® Brand Sweetener.”  Plaintiff further contends that Dunkin’ Defendants are misappropriating Plaintiff’s trademarked “Sweet Swaps®” by the use of a similar term “Smart Swaps.”

In this complaint, filed by Indiana trademark attorneys for Plaintiff, the following causes of action are alleged:

  • Count I: Common Law Trademark Infringement and Trademark Infringement under 15 U.S.C. § 1114(1)
  • Count II: False Designation of Origin under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(a)
  • Count III: Unfair Competition
  • Count IV: Trademark Dilution under 15 U.S.C. § 1125(c)
  • Count V: Trademark Dilution under I.C. 24-2-1-13.5
  • Count VII [sic]: Preliminary and Permanent Injunctive Relief
  • Count VIII: Corrective Advertising Damages

Plaintiff states that the following registered trademarks and pending trademark applications are implicated in this trademark lawsuit:

Mark Registration Number
SPLENDA 1544079
SPLENDA 3346910
SPLENDA – Design plus words, etc. 4172135
SPLENDA – Design plus words, etc. 4165028
SPLENDA – Design plus words, etc. 4301712
SPLENDA – Design plus words, etc. 4172136
SPLENDA – Design plus words, etc. 4165029
SPLENDA – Design plus words, etc. 4122311
SPLENDA – Design plus words, etc. 4187229
SPLENDA – Design plus words, etc. 4202774
SPLENDA – Design plus words, etc. 4230392
SPLENDA – Design plus words, etc. 4238101
SPLENDA – Design plus words, etc. 4106164
Pending Applications Serial Number
SWEET SWAPS Splenda 87012521

Plaintiff seeks damages, including punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief, costs and attorneys’ fees.

The case was assigned to District Judge Sarah Evans Barker and Magistrate Judge Mark J. Dinsmore in the Southern District of Indiana and assigned Case No. 1:16-cv-03045-SEB-MJD.


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