Dunkin’ Donuts may have inadvertently fired a shot across Starbucks’ bow in the Seattle coffee chain’s red cup “war on Christmas” controversy.
Dunkin' Donuts recently released its annual holiday cups, which feature a festive design with words like "Joy" surrounded by holly and snowflakes.
To some, they seemed a convenient contrast to the plain, crimson-colored Starbucks cups.
The Starbucks version has sparked criticism from conservative groups and a viral campaign by social media personality Joshua Feuerstein, who claim it's another example of Christmas being removed from the public eye.
Meanwhile, the cheery Dunkin' Donuts cups have now been embraced by those turned off by Starbucks’ more staid version.
However, for the conspiracy theorists who think Dunkin' created the new cups to tweak Starbucks for a perfectly-timed marketing opportunity, the company says that is not the case.
"For many years Dunkin' Donuts has served coffee in festive cups featuring the word 'joy' as part of our annual celebration of the season and holiday offerings," Dunkin' Donuts said in a statement to NBC News.
"We believe this conveys the happiness and spirit of the holiday season in a way that resonates with our guests."
Marketing experts also said it's not logistically possible for a large company like Dunkin' Donuts to produce a new cup quickly enough in order to cash in on a controversy like this.
"Even if you had zero approval and the design was finished, it would still take at least a month or two months to get it printed and distributed," Dave Tupper, creative director of the design agency Huge, told NBC News.
"Even local manufacturers take a couple months to produce something (like this) and Dunkin Donuts is certainly printing its cups in China."
Dunkin' Donuts actually prints its hot and iced coffee cups in the U.S., not China, according to the company.
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