Dr Pepper gets Oak Cliff soda maker to pull 'Dr Doctor' blend

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by DAVID SCHECHTER

Bio | Email | Follow: @davidschechter

WFAA

Posted on May 17, 2013 at 10:34 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 19 at 3:46 PM

DALLAS –– Dr Pepper, one of the giant names in soft drink history, appears to have its eyes set on the little guy. 

First, the soda behemoth shut down the family behind Dublin Dr Pepper last year, putting an end to the cane sugar soda. Now, it seems to be focused on an Oak Cliff-based soda maker who makes syrup for a small number of local fountains.

And, really, when it comes to small soda companies, it's hard to be smaller than Bryan Wilder's Oak Cliff Soda. It's a one room, two man operation of blending and boxing syrup for sale to a few nearby buyers. 

"I've blown the whole IRA and every resource I have to put into this," Wilder said. 

When Wilder made a Dr Pepper knockoff known as Dr Doctor, the name was an obvious hint as to what flavors to expect. After making about 100 boxes of Dr Doctor syrup, he heard from the other doctor: Dr Pepper. 

"I basically had a letter in my inbox one day with a cease and desist letter attached to it," Wilder said. 

Translation: Drop the name or go to court. Wilder dropped the name. 

The letter said Wilder was violating trademark law and his actions "falsely suggest to consumers an association and endorsement by DPSG." 

Keep in mind: both Walmart and Kroger make their own Dr Pepper knockoffs –– namely, Dr Thunder and Dr K. Dr Pepper lets these aluminum armies slide. 

"The customer's the one that decides on which product they want to purchase. Dr Pepper or Big K, Dr K?" says Gary Huddleston, a spokesman for Kroger's Consumer Affairs division. 

In one hour, Kroger may bottle and sell more Dr K than Bryan Wilder could sell in a lifetime. So what gives? 

"If something is called Dr in the marketplace, it has to have a particular quality standard," said Jud Bradbury, a business professor at the University of Texas at Dallas who has consulted with Dr Pepper. 

Bradbury says Dr Pepper knows it can be confident Walmart and Kroger can make a high quality soda that doesn't undermine the Dr Pepper brand. It's also only available in those stores, which, keep in mind, also sell a lot of Dr Pepper. 

Parent company Snapple Group declined to be interviewed for this story. However, in a statement, it said it takes "every reasonable step to protect its trademarks from infringement," addressing issues on a case-by-case basis.

But what's so special about Wilder's brand of soda? 

"I think it's a clear case of corporate bullying," he said.

Email dschechter@wfaa.com

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