consulting firm in Chicago’s western suburbs, which says it has worked with several Chicago professional sports teams and other “elite”
athletes and athletic organizations “worldwide,” has sued Pepsico and Gatorade,
saying one of the companies’ newer Gatorade marketing slogans has ripped off
the consulting firm’s name and identity.
On Aug. 4, Western Springs-based SportFuel Inc. filed suit
in Chicago federal court, alleging makers of energy beverages and food products
violated SportFuel’s trademark rights under federal law.
The lawsuit is centered on Gatorade’s national marketing
campaign, under which Gatorade has billed itself as “The Sports Fuel Company.”
The campaign, according to the complaint, was applied to Gatorade’s line of
whey protein powder, whey protein bars, shakes, “energy chews,” “Fuels” bar, “Sports
Fuels Drink,” “Thirst Quencher Powder” and other products.
SportFuel said Gatorade opted to brand its marketing campaign,
despite knowing it could confuse consumers into believing SportFuel had
endorsed the products or had otherwise agreed to allow Gatorade to trade on its
According to the complaint, SportFuel has been in business
since the early 1990s, developing “customized nutrition programs, including …
nutrition assessment, nutritional testing, coaching and recommendations for
diet and lifestyle changes, homeopathics, herbs, vitamins, minerals and
specific supplement formulations” over the past two decades. Past clients
purportedly included the Chicago Blackhawks, White Sox, Bears and Bulls, as
well as Northwestern University’s varsity athletic squads.
According to the lawsuit, SportFuel’s owner and founder,
Julie Burns, had long worked with Gatorade, purportedly serving on a Gatorade
advisory board and providing “various consulting services for Gatorade” from
Sportfuel’s lawsuit said it holds federal trademarks, under
its corporate name, both for its consulting services, and for lines of “dietary
supplements and sports drinks enhanced with vitamins.”
In its lawsuit, Sportfuel has asked the court to issue an
injunction blocking Pepsico and Gatorade from continuing to use the “Sports
Fuel Company” campaign and to order the defendants to pay SportFuel unspecified
compensatory damages, including “all gains, profits and advantages received” by
the food and beverage makers, as well as unspecified punitive damages, plus
SportFuel is represented in the action by attorneys Raymond
P. Niro and Kyle D. Wallenberg, of Niro McAndrews LLC, of Chicago, and attorney
Vincent Pinelli, of Burke Burns & Pinelli, of Chicago.