Mars Canada Inc., global candy giant and Mars Wrigley, which oversees confections such as of M&M'S®, SNICKERS®, ORBIT®, EXTRA® and Skittles®, recently concluded a lawsuit involving the use of the Skittles logo on illegal cannabis products. On Aug. 12, a federal Judge Patrick Gleeson ruled that three online cannabis retailers "deliver up and destroy all infringing products and packaging," and also pay various sums for infringing upon Mars's trademark.
"I also find that advertising and offering for sale of a potentially dangerous product using appropriated trademarks that are evidently and obviously attractive to children represents a marked departure from ordinary standards of decent behaviour that deserves to be denounced and deterred," Gleeson wrote in the motion.
"I have placed significant weight on the issue of harm not only to the Plaintiff but also to members of the public who might accidentally consume the Defendants' Infringing Product believing it to be a genuine SKITTLES product. The fact that SKITTLES are a confectionary product that are attractive to children reinforces the need to denounce the Defendants' conduct," Gleeson continued.
Mars initially filed the lawsuit in May 2021, claiming that the illegal retailers infringed on Mars's registered trademarks. "Mars Wrigley strongly condemns the use of popular candy brands in the marketing and sale of THC products, which is grossly deceptive and irresponsible," the company stated in a press release. "The use of Mars Wrigley's brands in this manner is unauthorized, inappropriate, and must cease, especially to protect children from mistakenly ingesting these unlawful THC products."
The company specifically mentioned products called "Medicated Skittles," "Starburst Gummies," and "Life Savers Medicated Gummies" that were being illegally sold on e-commerce sites in Canada and the U.S. According to a complaint filed in Riverside, California at the time, these products "pose a great danger to the public as anyone, children and adults alike, could easily mistake the infringing cannabis-infused products for Wrigley's famous and beloved candies and inadvertently ingest."
According to the National Post, Mars hired private detectives to purchase product lookalikes that infringed upon the company's trademarks.
In August 2017, the Ohio-based glue company that produces Gorilla Glue took GG Strains to court due to the use of "Gorilla Glue" in numerous strain names. By October, a settlement was reached, which stated that Gorilla Glue #1, #4, and #5, would no longer be used, and instead be replaced with GG1, GG4, GG5, etc. The cultivator's website domain would also be transferred to the Gorilla Glue company ownership by January 2020, among other stipulations.
Although it was a major setback, Ross Johnson, Co-founder of GG Strains and Gorilla Glue, was confident that that it could bounce back. "We're going to survive; we're going to overcome it," Johnson said. "Is it a setback? Most definitely, it is a setback. But it's all behind us now, and it's allowing us to move forward." Sadly, Johnson passed away in 2019, followed by his co-founder, Don Peabody (also known as Joesy Whales), in 2020, according to the Cannabis Business Times.
Similar legal moves have been made in regard to other famous trademarked brands as well. In February 2018, the company went after cannabis companies who were infringing upon the Hershey's Chocolate trademarked products. In February 2019, a group of delivery businesses called United Pot Smokers, UPS420, and THCPlant, were brought to court by UPS (United Parcel Service) regarding misleading brand identifiers. Later in July 2019, Sour Patch Kids candy maker targeted an illegal cannabis edibles product called "Stoney Patch" for infringing upon the trademark.