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McClatchy-Tribune  08/26/2014 1:46 PM ET
Not so sweet: The Hershey Co. launches trademark infringement court battle against candy importer [The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa. :: ]

Aug. 26--Things aren't always sweet in the candy industry.

That much is evident from a wide-ranging lawsuit The Hershey Company just filed in federal court, accusing a importer of infringing its trademarks for the candy maker's best-known products.

Essentially, Hershey claims LBB Imports LLC is bringing in foreign-made candy with packaging and labeling that mimics that of Hershey's well-known brands -- Reese's, York, Malteser, Cadbury, Kit Kat and Rolo.

LBB's actions, which continue despite protests by Hershey, are confusing consumers and illegally eating into Hershey's multi-billion share of the candy market, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. Middle District Court in Harrisburg.

Hershey also accuses LBB of breaching earlier agreements to stop infringing on its famous trademarks. The importer, which has offices in California and New Jersey, has even started marketing a new catalog with its allegedly infringing products, the suit states.

Hershey doesn't list a specific damage amount in the suit, but is is seeking triple damages from LBB, based on an accounting it asks the court to order of the profits the importer has made through the alleged infringements.

The stakes could be quite high, given the profits Hershey lists in the suit for its own products. Sales of the Reese's line alone have exceeded $7 billion in the U.S. in the last five years, Hershey reported, while the Kit Kat and Cadbury products have had sales of around $1 billion and $500 million during the same period. Yearly sales of York and Rolo products each exceed $100 million annually, according to the suit.

Hershey controls all those marks either directly or under license.

LBB is violating those protections both by word and appearance, Hershey contends. LBB's Cadbury, Rolo and Kit Kat imports bear the same name as Hershey's products, according to the suit while the LLB's Yorkie and Maltesers products are only slight name variations from Hershey's York and Malteser lines.

Packaging color schemes also are too close to be legal, Hershey contends. For example, it argues, packaging of LBB's Toffee Crisp product bears the same licensed "Orange Mark" color scheme of Hershey's Reese's line.

Hershey is asking Judge John E. Jones III for an order blocking continued alleged infringement. It wants the judge to direct LBB to turn over its products for destruction and pay for "corrective advertising" to address the harm Hershey contends that LBB has caused to its marketing efforts and sales.

The Hershey Co. is no stranger to trademark infringement battles and is known for fiercely protecting those marks.

The firm has waged such battles with arch rival Mars Inc., with candidates for Lancaster County sheriff and the Maryland state Senate who used images similar to company products in their campaigns, with a Michigan furniture company and with Williams-Sonoma over a cake pan design that Hershey claimed looked too much like its signature chocolate bar.

 

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