Splenda is not so sweet on Applebee’s and IHOP. In Splenda’s recent complaint filed in US District Court of the Southern District of Indiana, it alleges that Applebee’s and IHOP are using knock-off imitation Splenda packets. Splenda, being the OG knock-off (they’re a sugar knock-off), certainly won’t sit by idly and watch a new knock-off stroll into town and take steal their thunder…

Splenda’s complaint alleges trademark infringement, false designation of origin, unfair competition and trademark dilution. Splenda claims that IHOP and Applebee’s (both owned by DineEquity Inc.) stopped purchasing their iconic sweetener sometime between 2009 and 2013 (bit of a length period there, eh?). Instead of purchasing and using Splenda in IHOP and Applebee’s locations, Splenda claims that the stores began using a cheap imitation sweetener from China.

The trademark infringement claims here are super weak unless IHOP and Applebee’s are truly using yellow packets labeled Splenda, that are not in fact Splenda. Splenda does own several trademarks, but none include a yellow label (in fact most, if not all, of their stylized Splenda marks are dead). The false designation of origin claim is a bit more grounded. Splenda claims that when people in an IHOP or Applebee’s ask for a “Splenda” what they receive is the knock off yellow packet (seen in the pictures provided). When the customer is provided with this knock-off “Splenda” they are not corrected and told that this is not Splenda, but a different sugar substitute.

It’s a fair argument. But, my gripe here is that the word “Splenda” has almost become like “Band-Aid” or “Q-Tip” in that they are brand names that are synonymous with a product. When I go to a restaurant and ask if they have “Splenda” I wouldn’t be surprised if they provided me with a random sugar substitute, because that’s what I’m asking for when I ask for “Splenda.” But, DineEquity may have cut this a little close making their packets yellow. Having yellow packets coupled with the fact that Splenda was available in Applebee’s and IHOP restaurants previously, could spell trouble for DineEquity Inc. The court could very well believe that DineEquity sought to deceive customers into believing that the yellow sugar substitute packets were Splenda. C’mon guys, at least change the color of your packets!

Splenda, in their prayer for relief, requests injunctive relief (for IHOP and Applebee’s to stop providing the yellow packets), various forms of damages and a trial by jury. This one could get interesting…

Author, Martin Passante, is a 2L at Brooklyn Law School. Martin focuses his studies in intellectual property, entertainment, and copyright law especially in the world of YouTube.