A Colorado Springs-based maker of pot-infused candy sued by The Hershey Company for using knock-off labels to peddle its products says the wrappers for its chocolate bars look nothing like the candymaking giant’s famous brands.
Executives at TinctureBelle, which makes infused edibles sold at medical marijuana dispensaries, said its product packages not only don’t look like Reese’s, Heath, Almond Joy or York candies, but Hershey’s claim that children could confuse the two “is dumbfounding.”
“The lawsuit from Hershey came as a huge surprise to us,” TinctureBelle president Char Mayes said in a statement released Tuesday. “We changed our entire label line approximately six months ago, long before these allegations surfaced last week. Our new packaging looks nothing like Hershey’s or anyone else’s.”
The salvo comes a week after Hershey filed a 22-page suit in U.S. District Court in Denver claiming TinctureBelle’s packaging looked remarkably similar to the four candies, creating “a genuine safety risk with … consumers, including children, who may not distinguish between Hershey’s candy … and (TinctureBelle’s) cannabis-based products.”
Lawyers for Hershey did not immediately respond to efforts to reach them.
In the lawsuit, Hershey offered side-by-side photos of its candy and TinctureBelle’s products, showing names and package designs that appear similar — Hashees and Reese’s; Ganja Joy and Almond Joy; Hashheath and Heath; and Dabby Patty and York’s peppermint patty.
Hasheath has since been replaced by Hasheats.
Mayes said Hershey never contacted the small, family-owned business, and that they have still not officially been served with the lawsuit.
“Our mission is simple: We wish to contribute to the health and well being of all MMJ patients, as well as assist our beloved MMJ community in building a positive reputation for the community,” Mayes said in the statement.
Mayes noted that TinctureBelle products are only available in state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, and only to customers with a doctor-recommended, state-approved “red card.” Its products are in non-transparent, child-proof packages and are not sold in the state’s recreational pot stores.
“The suggestion … that our products are available to children, and even sold side-by-side with Hershey products, is dumbfounding,” Mayes said. It “shows a profound lack of awareness of how infused cannabis products are regulated, manufactured, and sold.”
Founded in 1894, Hershey is the largest chocolate manufacturer in North America with some of the most widely recognized products, each of them protected by federally registered trademarks.
The lawsuit alleges several infractions, including trademark infringement, dilution of the brand name’s recognition, and unfair competition.
It also names TinctureBelle Marijuanka as a defendant. Hershey seeks an injunction to stop the companies from selling the products.
Stories about the lawsuit have appeared in publications as far off as Brazil and Russia.
TinctureBelle had other products whose labels appeared similar in name and design to popular candy brands such as Goober, Twig-z, Dabby Nut Roll, and Dab-a-Honey. They are not part of the lawsuit filed by Hershey.
The company’s website has been unavailable for an undertermined amount of time for redesign, Mayes said.
In March, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law a bill that tightens packaging rules for marijuana-infused edibles. It requires edible marijuana sold to medical marijuana patients to meet the same packaging standards as pot sold to recreational customers.
David Migoya: 303-954-1506, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/davidmigoya