Colgate Claims the Word "Total" Is Its Property; Pits Brooke Shields v. Christie Brinkley

Last Updated Aug 4, 2009 12:14 PM EDT

Colgate-Palmolive's lawsuit against Chattem and Johnson & Johnson, for trademark infringement over the word "Total" in Chattem's branding of Act mouthwash, is equal parts delusion and intrigue. Although the suit does make a reasonable argument that Chattem has borrowed the "Total" concept for its own brands, it does so only after it has forced the reader through several pages of fluff touting the wonderfulness of Colgate's Total brands. The suit begins:
Colgate-Palmolive is a classic American success story that dates back to 1806 ... While many companies have come and gone over the years, Colgate-Palmolive has endured by consistently offering innovative, high-quality products ...
The TOTAL brands are among Colgate-Palmolive's "crown jewels."
There are even product shots on each page. It reaches its ridiculous climax with the claim that Chattem's use of Christie Brinkley in its ads "imitate" Colgate's use of Brooke Shields in its spots:

The intrigue lies in Colgate's claim that Chattem has adopted the "Total" concept deliberately. After Chattem bought the Act brand and others from J&J in 2006, the suit claims:
Chattem made many public statements, indicating that it was aware of the value of Colgate-Palmolive's TOTAL Brands, that it saw "great potential for bringing the Total concept ... into the mouthwash category," and that its plan was to launch a mouthwash trading off the unique concept and goodwill of TOTAL.
But the suit doesn't provide an exhibit or cite any source for those quotes ... leading the reader to guess that perhaps the "Great Total Robbery" was less sinister than painted.

Hat tip to Ad Age.

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