Pepsi Accused of Copying an AAPI Brand and Launching It on Heritage Month

Pepsi

A Filipino American entrepreneur has accused Pepsi of forcing her company to change its name and plagiarizing their product while claiming to support women-led small businesses.

To add to the insult, Celeste Perez, who co-founded Droplet, said a Pepsi employee bought their drink before the beverage giant launched a similar version right on Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

What happened: Perez said it all started in January 2020 when Pepsi legally forced her team to change their brand, Dewdrop, because it might be confused with Mtn Dew.

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  • By August, Dewdrop had given in to all of Pepsi’s demands, abandoning trademark filings and changing its name to Droplet to avoid further harassment and legal fees.
  • Perez said they pursued all these changes despite the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) saying Dewdrop would not be in conflict with Mtn Dew.
  • Droplet thought everything had been settled until February of this year when a Pepsi employee sampled their product as a way of “supporting small businesses.”
  • To Perez and her team’s horror, Pepsi released its latest drink called Soulboost last week, which allegedly resembled their own product.

 

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A post shared by Soulboost (@getsoulboost)

Alleged plagiarism: After Soulboost’s launch, Perez immediately compared it with Droplet and found glaring similarities.

  • For one, the text in Soulboost’s marketing posts and Dewdrop’s original logo apparently use the same typeface.
  • Perez noticed similarities between Soulboost’s press release and a Droplet feature story, as well as in both products’ websites and actual cans.
  • “It felt like they watched all our pitches, read all of our interviews, studied our website and took notes,” Perez wrote in her Instagram exposé.
  • Perez also felt that Soulboost used Droplet’s product guide for its social media voice, having used the phrase “look good, feel good” in one of its posts.

Pepsi’s response: Without naming any entity, Pepsi denied allegations of plagiarism in an Instagram post on Tuesday.

  • According to the company, Soulboost has been “a labor of love” from its Innovation team for two years.
  • Pepsi said that it filed to register the trademark in summer 2019 and subsequently completed both product and design, which was “original, existing artwork we licensed from an independent artist.”
  • The beverage giant claimed that there is “simply no merit” to any claims of inspiration because Soulboost was “built on consumer insights and the accelerating trend of functional products.”
  • The company confirmed that it took action against the Mtw Dew trademark infringement but pointed out that protecting the brand and creating Soulboost are occurrences that “live completely independently.”

Perez said many have asked Droplet about its next move, but their hands are simply tied. She said she can only hope for consumers to believe in authenticity.

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“All of Droplet came from who we are, what we believe in, and the ingredients and traditions we have always appreciated and grew up around,” she noted. “That’s the part that hurts the most — these were our words, our creations, a little bit of our own souls out there doing the work.”

Featured Images via Droplet (left), Soulboost / Pepsi (right)

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