The Dutch giant says it owns the whole "sicle" franchise and is hoping to bring the pet food company to heel with a federal copyright infringement lawsuit.
But Dani Kouri, the president of Koolpets in Montreal, begs to differ.
Kouri says that the Bonesicle has been sold in Canada for the past four years without so much as a yip from Unilever. Now that his company is planning to expand into the U.S. market, he can’t get Unilever off his leg.
"It's more of a defensive play on their part," said Kouri. "It's an abusive lawsuit. They want to intimidate us."
Bonesicle is a vitamin supplement-enriched chicken-, beef-, or pork-flavored liquid that comes in the shape of a bone, a heart or a snowman. Fido owners simply throw it in the freezer and then feed it to their pooch during the dog days of summer.
"It would be pretty hard to confuse the two," Kouri said.
"[Koolpet’s] misappropriation of the goodwill symbolized by Unilever’s sicle family of marks is to unjustly enrich [Koolpets], damage Unilever, and confuse and/or deceive the public," the company claimed in the suit.
Kouri said that he has applied for a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and that he has already received word that his application will be approved in the next few weeks.
Unilever's lawsuit also seeks to compel Koolpets to abandon their trademark application and take down their Bonesicle Facebook page until the litigation is settled.
So far, Kouri is unswayed.
"We have one of the top copyright lawyers in Canada on our board, so we’ll see what happens," he said. "One thing is for sure: The lawyers will make money."
Unilever lawyers did not respond to calls seeking comment.