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Mars Inc. has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against The Hershey Co. claiming that Hershey’s Malteser brand is too similar to Mars’ Maltesers.
“This lawsuit is without merit,” Hershey says. “The Hershey Co. has owned the MALTESER trademark in the United States for more than 15 years. We intend to vigorously defend against this groundless litigation.”
As for Mars, the company says only, "“Mars can confirm that we have filed a complaint that seeks to protect our Maltesers brand trademark.”
In the complaint, the chocolate maker offers more detail. Mars says, “By its recent copying, Hershey has tricked customers in the United States into buying fake Malteser candy instead of real Mars' Maltesers candy. Hershey's conduct is irreparably injuring and hampering Mars' ability to sell Maltesers candy in the United States.”
According to an article in Law 360:
“Hershey acquired the “Malteser” trademark, without a plural “s,” in 1998 from a Dutch company that had received it from the original registrant, Leaf Corp., which attained the mark nearly 30 years after Mars had begun selling Maltesers throughout the world, according to the suit. Mars sued and eventually settled with Leaf in 1994.
“From then on, Hershey has maintained the mark only for the purposes of pushing Mars' Maltesers out of the market in favor of Whoppers, engaging in little or only perfunctory use of the mark in violation of the Lanham Act, according to the complaint.”
In the complaint, Mars says the trademark infringement became too big of an issue to ignore in 2010, when Hershey released Malteser packaging that looked really similar Mars’ Maltesers packaging.
“The suit even provides the court with several angry comments from customers claiming they purchased what they thought were Maltesers on the Internet, only to learn they were deceived into buying the Hershey candy,” Law 360 reports.