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March 19, 2007

Coca-Cola Asked to Drop Coca from its Product Name

coke_world.jpgBolivia’s coca growers are demanding that Coca-Cola drop the word “coca” from its name.

It seems that "coca" being part of the most famous brand name in the world is a transgression on the country’s cultural heritage, where the coca leaf plays a central role in everything from tea to toothpaste. Many bloggers have responded with outright disbelief.

Preeti Aroon at Foreign Policy Passport draws a similarity between Bolivia’s (seemingly doomed) struggle to own the word “coca” and Ethiopia’s attempts to protect its various coffee trademarks.

coca-cola_cocaine.jpgHe also intelligently says that this is certainly a stunt on the part of President Evo Morales to legalize the growing of coca, the primary ingredient in cocaine, by repositioning it as “sacred” and an important component of other products (including flours and liquors) the country ostensibly hopes to export.

Coke has noted that the brand name is protected under Bolivian law and it is highly, highly doubtful that the world’s number one brand is going to change anytime soon. This reminds me of the New Coke debacle, one of the most memorable product renaming initiatives in history.

Are coca leaves, in any form, actually in Coke? Coke refuses to say but Aroon has found an interesting link showing that they used to be, decades ago.

CocaColaLabel.jpgEddie at Everything's Corner notes that Bolivia is also trying to get coca removed from the UN's Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. It is interesting to note that while the UN will not let Bolivia industrialize and profit from the Coca name or product, Coca-Cola is indeed doing so, whether coca leaves are part of the legendary secret formula or not.

But this is all moot—there are certain names that cannot be claimed by a country and trademarking the word “coca” will prove to be almost impossible. As Dr. X asks, “What next? Queen Elizabeth tells Royal Crown to drop the word 'Royal?' The American Medical Association goes after Dr. Pepper?”

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Posted by William Lozito at March 19, 2007 9:05 AM
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1 Comment

I found more recent confirmation in a New York Times article that an extract made of coca leaves is used in Coca-Cola. I wrote a post in my blog, with links to the US companies that are authorized to import coca leaves and manufacture cocaine.

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