Who Knew Bears Had IP: Haribo vs. Osito & Co.
Osito & Co
You’ve all heard of Haribo, the German company famous for its gummy bears.
What’s taken a turn is that Haribo has filed a lawsuit against a young startup, Osito & Co, against intellectual property.
Osito & Co started up as a small idea between Ander Mendez and his friends where alcohol-infused gummies sounded like a multi-millionaire plan. Yet, it didn’t take long for Haribo to discover and accuse the startup of trademark infringement. Osito & Co’s gummies resemble the bears of Haribo, and this was just enough for them to file a suit.
Mendez’s company manufactures alcohol-soaked gummies in different colors and flavors, whereas Haribo is alcohol-free. Despite the difference in their product category, as it was stated in the Digital Journal, a six-page letter was sent by a law firm working with Haribo, “explained in very threatening English that we were copying their trademarked product, that what we were doing was unfair competition.”
Yet Haribo claims that they were only using “standard legal procedure” and protecting their registered trademark as stated by the Guardian. Not only has Haribo asked for the transfer of the startup’s domain but it has also asked for an immediate stop to its manufactures and sales.
Where does fairness stand in intellectual property laws and how accurate is Haribo’s claim against Osito & Co’s gummy bears?
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) defines a trademark as a distinguishing sign that sets apart one entity or enterprise from another. This ‘sign’ has become a valuable and important strategy for the development of a trade and is key for businesses and consumers worldwide. Now, WIPO also explains that a trademark coexistence may occur when two different enterprises use a similar or identical trademark for their products and services.
So where do the rights stand in trademark infringement?
- If it is used in the same category in both enterprises
- If it creates false belief for consumers to think the product is approved or enforced on behalf of the trademarked enterprise
- If both enterprises distribute their products or services in the same location
- If both enterprises have the same target customers
- If there is much similarity of the trademarked product
Whether Haribo’s claims were fair is not for us to decide, but what can be stated that it is always best to be ‘safe than sorry’. One must always focus on prevention and highly assess trademark and copyright issues before imposing it on to a newly formed business. In order to reduce risk, it is best to avoid confusingly similar trademarks as did Osito & Co.