Splenda maker settles trademark lawsuit against IHOP, Applebee’s franchisor

The Carmel-based maker of Splenda sweetener has settled a legal dispute with the franchisor of International House of Pancakes and Applebee’s, which it sued last year for trademark infringement.

Heartland Food Products Group alleged in its suit that DineEquity Inc., now known as Dine Brands Global, used a “lower quality” artificial sweetener made in China that was distributed in yellow packages similar to packets used by Splenda. Servers at thousands of IHOP and Applebee’s restaurants would provide patrons with the off-brand packets when they asked for Splenda.

Heartland’s complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana alleged trademark infringement, false designation of origin, unfair competition and trademark dilution.

Heartland said Wednesday night in a statement that the parties had reached “an amicable resolution of their differences” in the case that would result in Dine Brands Global using real Splenda “in stars-and-stripes yellow packets at IHOP and Applebee's locations in the near future.”

Dine Brands has 3,700 restaurants in 18 countries.

"IHOP and Applebee's restaurants continuously strive to bring their guests the best restaurant experience,” officials for the restaurants said in written comments. “IHOP and Applebee's recognize that consumers ask for Splenda by name and look for the iconic Splenda trademarks."

DineEquity tried to have the lawsuit thrown out earlier this year, but district court Judge Sarah Evans Barker ruled the company had a valid case.

Heartland, which acquired the Splenda brand in 2015, filed a similar lawsuit against Dunkin’ Donuts in 2016. It was settled last year under unknown terms.

In addition to its Carmel headquarters, Heartland has major manufacturing and distribution operations in Indianapolis that employ more than 700 workers.

The company disclosed plans in August to spend $32 million to update its facilities in Marion County—a project that could help it add another 60 workers over the next three years.

In addition to sweeteners, the company makes creamers, beverage concentrates, coffee and nutritional drinks.

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