Friday, January 13, 2012

Petty End To Dublin Dr. Pepper

Petty. Pathetic. Small. Lame. Weak. The adjectives, they do flow in reaction to Dr. Pepper's offensive lawsuit against the tiny- and only- bottler of the reknown Dublin Dr. Pepper recipe of the soda. From Culture Map Austin:

If there's a bottle of Dublin Dr Pepper in your fridge, don't drink it — you are now the proud (and probably sad) owner of a collector's item. The Dublin Dr Pepper Bottling Co. that has produced the original recipe Dr Pepper soda since 1891 ceased production as of 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Dr Pepper Snapple Group announced that it had settled a pending trademark infringement lawsuit against the Dublin Dr Pepper plant by buying the Dublin operation and distribution rights.

So, in other words, this recipe and brand will be plowed under, simply destroyed to avoid whatever competition it presents to the main brand, no matter how miniscule.
Dublin Dr Pepper was sued by Dr Pepper Snapple Group for allegedly selling the Dublin Dr Pepper outside its six-county distribution area via its website and toll-free phone number. The suit asked that Dublin cease using the Dr Pepper name and trademark in addition to halting outside sales.
Allegedly? Well, I just bought 9 bottles today at the Do It Center hardware store in Fishers, Indiana. So it certainly got around. Unfortunately, 9 bottles cleaned them out. Even still, I could count the number of Indiana retailers I knew to stock it on one hand- and still have fingers left to attend to other tasks. That's hardly a competition to the main brand.

Besides that, whenever I bought and then ran out of the Dublin Dr. Pepper, I found I'd have a hankering for it, and would almost invariably end up buying the main brand. Yes, a less satisfying, cheaper variety, but isn't that the opposite of what Dr. Pepper feared? It wasn't competition, dummies! It was the enhancing of your brand!

Well, this lawsuit does the opposite. It tarnishes the very name Dr. Pepper. If they wanted me to think poorly of their company, they have succeeded greatly.

Yes, Dublin Dr. Pepper had an agreement to sell only within a 6-county area in Texas. Yes, they violated the contract. Yes, they should have faced some kind of sanction. But to kill the brand and the recipe? From the Dallas Business Journal:
Dr Pepper Snapple will now distribute Dr Pepper sweetened with cane sugar throughout Dublin’s former territory and other areas of Texas, including DFW. The packaging will no longer reference Dublin.
Cane sugar is a beautiful thing. It really makes a soda taste so much better than those sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. But I believe the Dublin recipe is different than regular Dr. Pepper, beyond sweetener. The flavorings are different. I taste a greater cherry flavor. I can't find any documentation to back it up, but it really tastes different, and better.

Oh well. I'll savor these last few, and lament the petty assholes that killed a cool brand.

Update: A quick check of Ebay's listings shows Dublin Dr. Pepper going for better than $70 a six pack, and over $10 a bottle. Mind you, these are 8 oz. bottles!

Hmmm... I just spent $1.80/bottle and got 9 of 'em...


Todd S. said...

Probably something else to blame laywers for. Courts have consistently held that if companies don't aggressively defend their trademarks, they can lose them. That of course makes the value of the company worth a lot less, which stockholders do not like one bit.

[Disclaimer: I am not a patent lawyer, nor did I sleep at a Holiday Inn last night.]

Mike Kole said...

I don't blame the lawyers, who are doing what they are employed to do. And, as acknowledged in the original post, the Dublin folks violated their agreement, so some sanction or consideration was in order. I would have liked it more if the Dublin Dr. Pepper was allowed to survive alongside the main brand. Why a settlement that didn't establish clear distinctions between the trademarks couldn't have been reached is beyond me. Kill the Dublin Dr. Pepper? That's just maniac spiteful, petty behavior to me.

I chalk that up to asshole business executives, not lawyers. I really can't see how the Dublin variety negatively hurt the main Dr. Pepper's bottom line. Most people don't even know about the Dublin variety. Those who do, like me, found that it enhanced the main brand.