HideTechdirt is off for the long weekend! We'll be back with our regular posts tomorrow.
HideTechdirt is off for the long weekend! We'll be back with our regular posts tomorrow.

Hershey Goes On A Threat Blitz Against A Bunch Of Independent Breweries

from the mine-mine-mine! dept

As far as Techdirt's pages go, Hershey, the company behind all kinds of candy and sweets brands, doesn't come out of the wash clean. The company has been known to lean on IP laws quite aggressively, even absurdly. For instance, it sued a furniture company for having vehicle wraps that looked like a couch being unwrapped like a chocolate bar. Pretty dumb. It also sued Mars for having its own peanut butter chocolate candy, but for which the trade dress was totally different compared with Hershey's Reese's property. Also dumb.

And now the dumb continues as Hershey is apparently going on a threat blitz against several independent beer breweries for trademark infringement. While some of the disputes make some sense from Hershey's perspective, some do not and the overall behavior of the company is one of the bully. We'll start with some of the problematic threats.

Over the past year, the world’s fifth largest chocolate confectioner has sent cease and desist letters to at least eight breweries across the country accusing them of infringing on its trademarks and requesting compensation up to $20,000.

In one case, Hershey is demanding that the owners of Parliament Brewing in Sonoma County, California, stop calling a beer a common catch-phrase that happens to share a name with one of its candy bars.

“We named a beer Whatchamacallit because we had a plumber we loved who was kind of hokey. He would refer to everything as a ‘whatchamacallit.’ I’d never heard the term before,” says co-owner Justin Bosch, who brewed the Whatchamacallit imperial IPA twice, once when Parliament opened in 2019 and again in 2020.

You may be wondering: where is this coming from, given that Hershey doesn't make beer and these seem to be different market categories? Well, the answer to that is likely because Hershey entered into a licensing agreement with Yuengling for its "Hershey's Chocolate Porter". This, perhaps, has led Hershey to believe that it is now tangentially in the beer-making business.

Except that's not really how that works. Combined with the generic nature of the brand name, "Whatchamacallit", there is no public confusion here to worry about. Beer is not candy, in other words, so these two products are in fact playing in different markets, which means in most cases there is no valid trademark complaint to be made.

But because trademark bullying by huge companies works, nearly all of the breweries in question have agreed to change their branding, including Parliament Brewing. That, it appears, wasn't enough for Hershey. The company wants its $20k no matter what.

“I don’t agree there’s an issue here but in the interest of making everybody happy I’ll stop,” he says, paraphrasing his response. “And they came back with, ‘Give us $20,000.’”

More precisely, even though they made no initial mention of money and expressed a wish to “resolve this matter quickly and amicably,” they came back with a letter from their law firm that stated relief could only come from paying a steep price.

It read, “While we appreciate your willingness to cooperate and to cease infringing our client’s intellectual property rights, be advised that entering a formal agreement with Hershey will be necessary to resolve your past unauthorized use of the WHATCHAMACALLIT® trademark and to confirm your understanding going forward.”

I would think the lesson here is that perhaps the math on whether to fight spurious trademark threats from Hershey wasn't so cut and dry. If you're going to have to shell out $20k anyway, well, maybe it would have been better to find a lawyer and fight. After all, again, in nearly all of these cases there is little reason to think the public is actually going to be confused over any of this.

Or, as Bosch, who produces a mere 500 barrels (15,500 gallons) of beer per year, says, “Nobody’s going to mistake a double IPA for a candy bar.”

Depends on how many double IPAs they've already had, I suppose, but it's "moron in a hurry" not "moron who is drunk."

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: beer, chocolate, trademark
Companies: hershey


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 17 Dec 2021 @ 6:09pm

    Waiting for the "Hershey's makes me want to vomit" from the UK TechDirt contingent in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

    In all seriousness, though, Hershey's in the wrong vis-a-vis trademarks here though, no matter what I think about their chocolate products (which I do buy to be perfectly frank, even though Tony's Chocolonely tastes better IMHO).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 18 Dec 2021 @ 2:08am

      Re:

      "Waiting for the "Hershey's makes me want to vomit" from the UK TechDirt contingent"

      Doesn't make me want to vomit, it just tastes like it!

      (in case anyone's unaware of the joke, Hersheys and other US manufacturers chocolate routinely contains butyric acid (a chemical also found in vomit), which is not typically present in British or European chocolate and thus makes it taste quite different).

      "In all seriousness, though, Hershey's in the wrong vis-a-vis trademarks here though"

      Especially when the example given is yet another attempt at hijacking words that have been in use already for hundreds of years in different contexts. It's one thing for them to invent a name then go after people imitating that new name. It's quite another for them to reuse a common word or phrase, then go after people who have independently tried using the same pre-existing words.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Dec 2021 @ 9:57pm

    Remember when American companies made products and not just try to invent income from IP?

    As the resident immortal I'd compare what is happening to America to the fall of Rome... but Rome had good roads.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2021 @ 5:38am

      Re:

      After what Alexander Graha Bell and Edison did, ie, abuse the system so that they were the first to file their patents?

      I'm starting to believe that they always wanted the latter...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 17 Dec 2021 @ 11:49pm

    Depends on how many double IPAs they've already had, I suppose, but it's "moron in a hurry" not "moron who is drunk."

    I think I see your confusion...
    Moron in a hurry refers to the general public. Moron who is drunk refers to IP lawyers. Unfortunately, since they're morons they don't know which group they are a part of.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 18 Dec 2021 @ 12:45am

    "Whatchamacallit" ...is a generic term I've heard nearly all of my life of many decades, having nothing to do with candy--in a bunch of movies from the '30s and '40s (not about candy). (Hershey's has a registered trademark for it? Gee, thanks USPTO.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 18 Dec 2021 @ 2:11am

      Re:

      According to the online etymology dictionary, one form of the term quite comfortably predates the founding of the USA, though this exact term only goes back to 1928...

      https://www.etymonline.com/word/whatchamacallit

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Arioch (profile), 18 Dec 2021 @ 9:22pm

      Re: Whatchamacallit

      Watchamightcallit is something my mother used to say when I was a small child (circa late 1950s).
      Here in the UK no one had even heard of hershey.. and even now they have scant popularity.
      How dare they even attempt to capitalise what is a generic term.

      But even more serious is the fact that there marketing division thinks that the average person cannot tell the difference between beer and chocolate.

      Time for a major management review guys

      You need to seriously take control of these idiots that are causing major damage to your business

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 19 Dec 2021 @ 9:44am

        Re: Re: Whatchamacallit

        But even more serious is the fact that there marketing division thinks that the average person cannot tell the difference between beer and chocolate.

        I prefer to believe this is a confession by Hershey that notable members of their company can not tell the difference between beer and chocolate.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2021 @ 8:19am

    Uspto should not be giving trademarks on generic words . This company is a trademark bully even attacking company's that don't make candy . EU chocolate is better as it generally does not include chemicals .
    and it does not need 20k from a small company

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Paul, 18 Dec 2021 @ 9:23am

    Luckily, Hershey's chocolate is inedible crap.

    A crap which smells & tastes like East German chocolate during the '80s. Luckily, I have been blessed to taste some really good American chocolate, namely Ghirardelli's and Old See's. Now these are what I call real chocolate!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 18 Dec 2021 @ 1:55pm

      Re: good American chocolate

      As I said (erm, typed) in the post above, try Tony’s Chocolonely. It couldn’t be further from Hershey’s and it tastes great!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Paul, 20 Dec 2021 @ 7:43am

        Re: Re: good American chocolate

        Tony Chocoloney is from Amsterdam, and I'm currently sitting on my work chair in Amsterdam. Anyway, I truly meant USA-minted chocolate. Hershey's is inedible crap puke by European standards. Since US supermarkets are full Hershey's and Mars/Twix etc., I lived under the impression American chocolate is all-encompassingly bad. Thanks God for S.F.'s Ghirardellis goodness.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Samuel Abram (profile), 20 Dec 2021 @ 1:32pm

          Re: Re: Re: good American chocolate

          You're right. Tony's Chocolonely is Dutch. Mea Culpa. Mijn fout. My bad. Whatever.

          BTW, Lindt owns Ghirardelli now, and Lindt is a Swiss company. But if you're going to call Ghirardelli Swiss chocolate, you might as well call Coors and Budweiser Belgian beer.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 18 Dec 2021 @ 9:53am

    A big steaming pile of...

    Hershey's. God, what assholes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crazy_diamond (profile), 18 Dec 2021 @ 7:39pm

    It's not that there are too many lawyers, it's that too many of them do the wrong things.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 20 Dec 2021 @ 1:34pm

    Re:

    So you just copy and pasted my comment and then added a phishing link in the end? Man, you trolls are getting desperate…

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Atkray (profile), 20 Dec 2021 @ 4:36pm

    Someone needs to tell George Clinton about this brewery.

    Because trademarks

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Loading...
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.