No Protection for ‘Best Coffee in America’

Dunkin’ Donuts loses trademark request

CANTON, Mass. -- Dunkin’ Donuts won’t be able to claim exclusive­ rights to the phrase “Best Coffee in America” anymore.

The Patent and Trademark Office has tentatively rejected the Canton-based chain’s efforts to trademark the slogan, saying it is not distinctive enough to qualify for protection, according to a report in the Boston Globe. The slogan “is merely laudatory and descriptive,” the agency ruled recently.

“Anyone at all can claim that their coffee is the ‘Best Coffee in America,’ ” said a Newton trademark attorney, Zick Rubin. “No one takes such a claim literally, and no one company can monopolize the phrase.”

Both Rubin and the trademark office­ noted the ruling has an obvious precedent. The maker of Sam Adams beer, Boston Beer Co., tried to trademark a similar slogan, “The Best Beer in America.” But the trademark office turned down the request, and an appellate court upheld the decision in 1999, according to the report. The Boston brewer has continued to use the phrase anyway, but without trademark protection.

Many other companies claim to have the ­nation’s best joe. Dunkin’ noted on its website that its coffee won top marks in a 2007 online poll. But Starbucks has topped Dunkin’ for at least three years in a row as the top fast-food coffee in Zagat’s survey.

Starbucks declined to comment.

Dunkin’ sells more than 1.5 billion cups of coffee a year around the world. It declined to say whether it planned to appeal the ruling. “We are reviewing the filing and cannot speculate on future plans at this time,” spokeswoman Jessica Gioglio told the newspaper.