Walgreens' Ridiculous Branding Lawsuit Against Wegmans

Last Updated Nov 8, 2010 4:40 PM EST

You'd think Walgreens (WAG) would be humming along just now, with its sales and earnings rising steadily. But instead, the drugstore chain has chosen to pick a fight with regional grocery chain Wegmans, suing it over the introduction of a new logo that Walgreens charges is too similar to its own.

Actually, the whole suit centers on one letter. The "W" at the beginning of each of the companies' names. No joke.

You see, both logos are in italics. Walgreens apparently thinks it owns italics, so it wants to stop Wegmans from using them. For its part, Wegmans says it's reviving a logo from earlier in the company's history.

The real laugh is that at a quick glance, there are at least four things distinctly different about Wegmans' logo compared with Walgreens'.

  1. Walgreens' classic logo is red, while Wegmans' is black.
  2. The Walgreens W has a loop in the middle, while Wegmans' does not.
  3. The upswing at the beginning of the letter starts down low for Wegmans, up high for Walgreens.
  4. The end of the W goes up above the rest of the logo for Wegmans, while it stays flush with the letter's start for Walgreens.
Making the situation even more ridiculous, these are not chains that are even in the same business. Do Walgreens' managers really think customers are going to be confused when they see a Wegmans, and mistake it for a Walgreens drugstore? The stores are quite different sizes as well as selling quite a different array of merchandise. Maybe they're worried Wegmans customers will come in Walgreens and want a steak hand-cut for them.

This kind of thing has become an epidemic -- one that wastes court resources at a time when municipalities are cash-strapped. Companies are suing because they assert they've trademarked the color red, just about. Case in point: Earlier this year, Dollar General (DG) sued rival discount merchandise chain Fred's (FRED) for using the combination yellow and black in its ads, claiming Dollar General owns that combination. Yellow is probably added to about half the black-and-white print ads created because it's attention-getting and adding one color is fairly cheap to do...but never mind.

If a company in a similar niche is creating an obvious imitation of another company's logo or brand look, they should be stopped. But Walgreens is way over the line here, fussing on about a logo in another type of business entirely.

Photo via Flickr user Phillip Pessar; Logos courtesy of The Consumerist
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  • Carol Tice

    Carol Tice is a longtime business reporter whose work has appeared in Entrepreneur, The Seattle Times, and Nation's Restaurant News, among others. Online sites she's written for include Allbusiness.com and Yahoo!Hotjobs. She blogs about the business of writing at Make a Living Writing.