Haribo, the Bear and the Dispute

A trade mark infringement claim has been raised by Haribo regarding the use of the a bear shaped alcoholic sweet by a Spanish company. This all started when a sweet based company, Ositos & Co (Little Bears & Co) set up by three friends had a vision. This vision involved the selling of bear shaped sweets in certain establishments such as pubs and bars. The reason for this was because they had developed a way of making the sweets alcoholic. This has been going very well and is sought after from punters across parts of Europe, until a scary letter landed on its doorstep from lawyers acting on behalf of the world-famous brand, Haribo.

We all know and love a Haribo, and usually after rummaging around in a mixed bag, you will find a delicious Gummy Bear sweet, of which Haribo are arguing is highly similar to that of the Spanish companies bear shaped, alcoholic sweet. The letter claims that the similarities between the two bear shaped delights are likely to cause confusion in the eyes of the public as to the ownership.

The letter goes on to say that the Spanish company are to cease and desist from distributing its sweets immediately and to ensure it transfers all ownership over to Haribo. The issue is that under Intellectual Property Law, if Haribo can show prior rights of ownership such as through trade mark and design rights, and a court also accept that there would be a likelihood of confusion resulting in the appearance of Osito & Co ‘riding off the coattails’ of the good will of Haribo and its sweets, then they could have no choice but to transfer all ownership over to Haribo and maybe even pay its legal bills.

The CEO of Osito & Co is, according to a report which was released, puzzled and shocked by this letter. Ander Méndez stated “We’re all a bit scared by this to be honest. I’m only 24 and have only just finished university. Everything that’s happening to us now is the kind of thing you see in films; you never think it’s going to happen to you.” He also is concerned that his company is not the only one to be pushed to defeat by bigger companies such as Haribo. He said “There could be more cases like ourselves happening elsewhere, where young people are being held back because they don’t have the resources to fight. Maybe if we fight it, it could help others in the same situation. We’ve always been about fun and partying and we never thought we’d end up in a legal battle. What’s going on here is absolutely surreal. Imagine you’re 22 or 23 and just out of university and a multinational start threatening you and trying to destroy two years of work. It’s a nightmare.”

At Lawdit Solicitors, we receive enquiries from companies like Osito & Co which have opened very scary, pushy letters from lawyers saying it must stop using a product or brand immediately. After potentially years of blood, sweat and tears to build up the brand, many are heartbroken to learn they must shut it all down and move on, all because a court considers ownership to be misplaced. If you have received a cease and desist letter, contact us and ask to speak with a member of our contentious team now.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/food/2020/jan/24/why-cant-we-use-a-bear-spanish-startup-shocked-by-haribo-legal-threat-alcohol-sweets

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