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Hershey Sues Williams-Sonoma Over Brownie Pan

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Photo by Trekkyandy on Flickr

Photo by Trekkyandy on Flickr

Hershey Co. has filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Williams-Sonoma Inc. over a brownie pan shaped like a chocolate bar—and not just any chocolate bar, Hershey contends.

According to the complaint, the brownie pan is shaped like “a chocolate bar that consists of, inter alia, a rectangle containing 12 equally sized rectangular panels arranged in a 4×3 format, with each panel having its own raised borders,” which “embodies and mimics” Hershey’s signature chocolate bar trademarked in 1968.

The main contention behind the complaint is that when Williams-Sonoma customers see the brownie pan, they think of Hershey; Hershey’s lawyers believe that is a classic case of a trademark infringement where there is actual confusion.

In support of its arguments, lawyers attached pages of comments from Williams-Sonoma’s own site as well as those from other websites of customers who have used the pan and who have mentioned Hershey’s by name in their opinions. One comment noted the pan is “like a Hershey’s bar with individual brownies.”

This proves, Hershey contends, that the pan “is likely to cause consumers, purchasers and others to be confused or mistaken into believing that WSI’s infringing products originate with, are sponsored or approved by, emanate from, or are otherwise associated with, Hershey or the source of Hershey’s brand chocolate bars.”

Hershey Co. is seeking an injunction to prevent further sales of the pan; Williams-Sonoma Inc. hasn’t commented publicly on the suit, and the brownie pan continues to be on sale on the Williams-Sonoma website.

Reaction to the Lawsuit

While the brownie pan definitely shares a similar look to the Hershey bar, Carol Tice of BNET calls Hershey’s lawsuit “misguided” and a missed chance on a “great marketing opportunity.”

What do you think? Should Hershey have just let this go and hoped it increased its own sales? Could Hershey have worked with Williams-Sonoma Inc. on a kind of joint project? Is infringement ever something that a trademark holder should just ignore?

Remember, if you are interested in registering a trademark, LegalZoom can help.

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June 2nd, 2010 at 8:18 am