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Coca‐Cola brand protection before World War II – it's the real thing!

Ross D. Petty (Division of Accounting and Law, Babson College, Babson Park, Massachusetts, USA)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 27 April 2012




This paper aims to discuss the early brand protection efforts of Coca‐Cola.


The paper examines the hundreds of trademark infringement challenges brought by Coca‐Cola in courts and before the US Patent and Trademark Office and develops a tripartite system of categorizing these challenges by primary legal issue.


Coca‐Cola developed several innovations in brand identity protection including challenges to a wide variety of similar names, logos and packaging, the use of detectives in service settings and the use of consumer psychological evidence in legal proceedings. Ultimately, it protected it name against those rivals that closely imitated both words in its name or words similar to Coca or Coke. However, it was unable to obtain exclusive rights to the word cola which became the generic designation for such drinks.

Practical implications

Even today, the scope of Coca‐Cola's brand protection efforts provide a useful model for modern brands. This work also presents and summarizes important historical data.


This study examines Coca‐Cola's brand protection efforts and legal challenges in much greater detail than previous historical works on Coca‐Cola.



Petty, R.D. (2012), "Coca‐Cola brand protection before World War II – it's the real thing!", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 4 No. 2, pp. 224-244.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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