Anyone who has been in a grocery store is well aware of what are, for lack of a better term, knock-off or generic versions of more widely recognizable products. Indeed, as a kid there was few greater disappointments than asking your parents for a snack or sugary cereal from the store, only to have them return with the lesser version that they picked up because it was cheaper, because your parents had to think about things like budgets and not solely about snacks or the day’s Nickelodeon lineup. Brand names matter, is the point, and they matter a lot when it comes to candy, at least when you’re in the target demographic its makers are appealing to.
Which is why you can understand the interest in Mars Wrigley in protecting the various candies under their umbrella, and why the trademark lawsuit against the maker of Zkittlez was seemingly a fait accompli when they hit the market. Per CNBC’s reporting, Mars Wrigles is seeking damages from Terphogz, the company making Zkittlez, as well as an injunction against the sale of the candy and associated merchandise, as well as the transfer of the brand’s website and social media accounts.
While brands are usually vigorous in protecting their IP, few are as zealous in their efforts as Mars Wrigley are in this instance. And it’s easy to understand why: children consuming Zkittlez would not simply be tasting the rainbow, but a dose of THC as well, as one in a trend of products infused with the chemical.
While that development isn’t as scandalous as it once might have been — recreational marijuana use is legal in a growing number of states, and public opinion on the matter has largely shifted in favor of legalization — it’s a problem when you’re talking about your pot products falling into the hands of kids, who may get sick from consuming it. In addition to the bog standard trademark concerns, Mars doesn’t want to find itself even tangentially tied to stories of kids who had to go to the hospital because of a few errant pieces of candy.
Seemingly Terphogz could have avoided the entire mess by simply giving their product a similar name that would have been evocative but not actionable, enough to wink at adults without giving kids the wrong idea about whether the product was for them. (As for Zkittlez being accessible for kids in the home, I guess parents need to be better about hiding their stash.) Instead they’ve courted the wrath of a multinational corporation, and brought down the opprobrium of having potentially made kids sick. Chances are they’re going to need a bag of their own candy to take the edge off some tough days in court.