Game Over: Mars files lawsuits for trademark infringement against shady Skittles brand infringers

May 22, 2021

2 min read

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What's going on here?

Mars Inc’s Wrigley division has launched a series of legal actions in Chicago and California against several online cannabis candy sellers for alleged trademark infringement of its Skittles, Starburst and Life Savers brands.

What does this mean?

Wrigley has filed three complaints. Two allege that the “Medicated Skittles,” “Starburst Gummies” and “Life Savers Medicated Gummies” that are sold by seven online retailers including GasBuds, Packaging Papi and 2020edibles.com imitate Wrigley’s packaging and infringe its trademarks. Wrigley claims that the packaging used by the imitators matches its packaging “nearly-identically”.

The third complaint, filed in Chicago by Wrigley, names California company Terphogz as the culprit that Wrigley alleges “knocked off” its “Taste the Rainbow” slogan, copied the Skittles logo and used a similar sounding name “Zkittlez” for its shady sweets.

Mars seeks damages of $2m per counterfeit mark. It also wants all profits from infringing sales and the destruction of all infringing products.

What's the big picture effect?

The Mars Wrigley lawsuit is the latest in a series of big brands taking action against cannabis copies of their products in the last few years. One example, is Starbucks, who in 2016, won a trademark and copyright infringement case against both a designer and online store who designed and sold a bong that looked like a Starbucks Frappccino cup. In 2017, Gorilla Glue Co. began a lawsuit against Las Vegas company, GG Strains, which dubbed its sticky strain of medical marijuana Gorilla Glue #4. In all these cases, the common theme is that brands relatively unknown to the wider community but well-known in the cannabis industry are profiting from the use of similar branding to that of large multinationals. Due to the US Code of Federal Regulations strictly prohibiting the registration of a trademark whereby the sale or transportation of any product for which registration is sought conflicts with other laws, creators of cannabis-infused products are unable to register trademarks; sale of cannabis across state lines is illegal under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

As such, while brands can seek registration in a state where cannabis is legal, investing in brand identity is not a huge priority for cannabis product creators who find it much easier and more lucrative to piggyback off the brand identities of larger companies. However, such an approach only gives more of a reason to justify making cannabis illegal on a federal level, thereby pushing the sale further into the illicit market. While Mars Wrigley hopes its move “sends the illicit cannabis industry a strong signal to stop illegally using the company’s brands and products,”. A closer look at how federal law operates is necessary to deter brands from creating cannabis copy products and committing trademark infringement.

Report written by Sofija Belajcic

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