Hershey chocolate is a household name in America – you would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t tried a Hershey bar at some point in their lives. And that’s not to mention the many other products Hershey makes, including baking supplies, sundae toppings, and plush toys modeled after their iconic candy. They even have an entire theme park dedicated to the brand, where guests can tour a chocolate making factory and ride roller coasters when they need a break from the sweet stuff. The chocolate is perhaps the most prominent brand of candy in the country.
While most people recognize the name, what some may not know is how vigorously Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Co. defends their brand. With so much at stake, the company is serious when it comes to protecting their intellectual property, and they are known for going after other companies who may be misusing their trademark. The most recent example of this happened last year, when a hotel opened up outside of Hersheypark, suspiciously named “The Milton.”
This raised some eyebrows at Hershey, as the beloved founder of the company was named Milton S. Hershey. While this may seem merely a coincidence, the company’s IP lawyers knew better. The key to a successful trademark is that it builds goodwill and loyalty in its customers. Someone who knows they love Hershey’s Kisses, for example, will trust the newest flavor out when they see that mark on the packaging. They know and trust the company, so they are more likely to consistently buy their products.
The issue with The Milton is that the name plays on Hershey’s goodwill, according to the lawsuit filed this spring. Hershey claims that the owners of The Milton, Milestone Partners LLC, are illegally using Hershey’s marks in their promotional materials. The suit comes months after a cease and desist letter was sent, and after unsuccessful negotiations. Most notably, the suit points out that The Milton uses the word “Hershey” in multiple locations, including their website name (www.miltonhotelhershey.com), and their claims that they are “only two miles from Hersheypark and all of the major Hershey attractions…” It is clear that the name is being used, but the potential issue for the judge will be to what extent that harms Hershey.
Hershey certainly has a reputation for being a heavy hitter in the legal field, so it will be interesting to see what happens here. It seems they may have a pretty strong case, but if this suit follows the pattern of the others that came before it, there is a good chance it will settle outside of court. Either way, Hershey is hoping for a sweet victory.