Candy and chewing gum conglomerate Mars Wrigley is suing weed businesses in Canada, California, and Illinois for infringing on the trademarks of their classic Skittles, Starburst, and Life Savers candies. This week, the candy giant filed three lawsuits in federal court, asking for millions of dollars in damages and demanding the shutdown of several online cannabis retailers.
First on the docket is Terphogz, a California cannabis company that sells weed, CBD, and merch under the “Zkittlez'' branding. The lawsuit accuses Terphogz of intentionally copying the brand name, logo, and even the famous “Taste the Rainbow” slogan of the company’s Skittles candy. Mars Wrigley is asking the court to permanently block Terphogz from selling these products, shut down the company's website, and close its social media accounts.
This lawsuit, which was filed in Chicago federal court, also targets five unnamed cannabis businesses that operate in Illinois. Mars Wrigley believes these companies “purchase Terphogz’s Zkittlez goods and resell them to end users in Illinois,” the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Adult-use cannabis is legal in both California and Illinois, but shipping weed between US states is still a violation of federal law. If the lawsuit uncovers evidence that Terphogz has been shipping weed products to Illinois, the company could find itself subject to further federal prosecution.
On the same day, Mars Wrigley filed another federal lawsuit in Southern California against several online weed retailers that sell THC-infused knockoffs of the company's trademarked products. This lawsuit targets a number of products, including “Medicated Skittles,” “Life Savers Medicated Gummies,” and “Starburst Gummies,” all of which directly copy the names and trademarks of the company’s candies.
Unlike Terphogz, who were at least cautious enough to change the spelling of their product from Skittles to Zkittlez, many of these California knockoffs allegedly copy the candy corporation's trademarks verbatim. The main logo for the “Medicated Sour Skittles” edibles, for example, is identical to the standard Skittles logo, with the exception of a few cannabis leaves and standard THC warnings required by California law.
Mars Wrigley has also extended its sights to Canada, filing a third lawsuit against adult-use businesses that are allegedly infringing on their trademarks. In each of these lawsuits, the company is demanding $2 million in damages for each and every trademark violation. The litigation also demands that these companies cease and desist from selling knockoff products and shut down all associated websites.
“At Mars Wrigley we take great pride in making fun treats that parents can trust giving to their children and children can enjoy safely,” a company spokesperson told CNBC. “We are deeply disturbed to see our trademarked brands being used illegally to sell THC-infused products, and even more so to hear of children ingesting these products and becoming ill.”
These lawsuits are the most recent installment in an ongoing trademark war between massive corporations and small-scale cannabis producers. The Ferrara Candy Company has been filing numerous lawsuits against companies for selling knockoffs of its popular Nerds rope candies, and Hershey's has sued dozens of companies for ripping off its chocolate products.
Companies outside of the candy industry, including Kool cigarettes, Gorilla Glue, and even the Girl Scouts of America, have also sued cannabis producers and retailers for copying their product names or trademarks.