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Product popularity doesn’t make trademark infringement okay

On Behalf of | Jun 16, 2014 | Intellectual Property

When you need to blow your nose, do you ask for a tissue or a Kleenex? When you have a headache, do you take an ibuprofen or an Advil? There are some products that are so popular that the brand name seems to have replaced the generic name for similar products. Failure to prevent this type of use in the marketplace or a specific industry could even lead to trademark erosion, but the familiarity of a name alone doesn’t mean that using the company’s trademarked image is okay.

Hershey’s chocolate is one of the most well-known brands when it comes to smooth, delicious, milky chocolate. It says so right there on the familiar brown packaging with the bold lettering: “HERSHEY’S” and “MILK CHOCOLATE” right below.

A senator from a nearby jurisdiction just happens to have a last name with the same spelling, but The Hershey Company said that switching out the last two words and replacing them with “STATE SENATE” was simply unacceptable… and illegal.

The Hershey Company recently released a statement that said that the senator’s campaign logo was “an unauthorized use of our distinctive and famous design.” Although there are a few minor differences, the company said that it was so close to the real thing that it constituted trademark infringement.

For The Hershey Company, it wasn’t just about using the likeness for a non-company purpose. The company also noted that it didn’t want the public to believe that it was taking a particular political stance or supporting a particular candidate.

The use of the company’s likeness could “mislead consumers into believing that Steve Hershey is somehow affiliated with or endorsed by The Hershey Company,” it wrote in the statement.

We cannot speculate in this blog as to any specific harm that The Hershey Company would suffer as a result of this particular campaign, but we can certainly say that their concerns are valid. Whether it is a political stance or some other polarizing issue, like religion, certain affiliations can affect a company’s image and brand name.

Protecting brand name can make all the difference in a company’s bottom line and long-term market standing, and it is something that a New York attorney can help any company defend.

Source: Philadelphia Business Journal, “Hershey Company sues Sen. Hershey in logo dispute,” Madison Russ, June 11, 2014


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