SportsFuel, Inc., a nutrition consulting firm outside of Chicago, has filed a lawsuit against PepsiCo Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiary The Gatorade Company over the SPORTSFUEL trademark. SportsFuel owns federally-registered trademarks for SPORTSFUEL and alleges that, “[o]ver the past two decades, SportFuel, Inc. has performed nutritional consulting for a number of elite sports teams, including the Chicago Blackhawks, the Chicago White Sox, the Chicago Bears, [and] the Chicago Bulls….”
The lawsuit was apparently triggered by Gatorade’s recent campaign to market itself as “The Sports Fuel Company,” which Plaintiff alleges is likely to confuse consumers as to sponsorship, authorization, affiliation, and/or association between the companies.
Notably, this is a case where Plaintiff will likely argue that there is the potential for “reverse confusion.” Under this type of trademark infringement, the subsequent user’s promotion of the mark overwhelms the use by the prior user such that purchasers start to associate the mark with the subsequent user. As a result, there is reverse confusion, with purchasers likely to believe that the goods or services offered by the prior user are actually those of the subsequent user.