Colgate Sues J&J, Chattem for Using the Word 'Total'

Stakes Out Exclusive Rights Claim to Term in Oral-Care Aisle

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Use of the word "total" on package-goods products is getting out of hand, according to Colgate-Palmolive, which now is waging total warfare in court against two oral-care competitors using the same name as its toothpaste brand.

Colgate is looking to bar product names such as Listerine Total Care.
Colgate is looking to bar product names such as Listerine Total Care.
As multibenefit products became all the rage in package goods in recent years, the word "total" has become commonplace on products throughout the store.

Looking to stem the tide at least in oral care, Colgate-Palmolive Co., which launched Colgate Total toothpaste in 1997 in the U.S., filed two nearly identical lawsuits Friday in U.S. District Court in New York.

Colgate is alleging trademark infringement involving "Total Care" variants from Johnson & Johnson's Listerine and Chattem's Act, both launched in February. What's worse, according to Colgate, is that J&J also intends to launch "Total Care" products in dental floss and toothbrushes this month under its Reach brand.

They're not to be confused with Procter & Gamble Co.'s Tide Total Care, launched last year, which apparently avoids conflict with the Total toothpaste trademark because it's not an oral-care product.

A spokesman for J&J declined to comment. Chattem didn't return a call for comment by deadline.

Colgate said Total toothpaste has had more than $3 billion in U.S. sales over the past 12 years and generates nearly $1 billion in sales globally each year.

The company is seeking injunctions barring the sale of the Total Care products, plus tripling of unspecified damages for trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution of its trademark.

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