The Trix Rabbit, Cap’n Crunch and the Girl Scouts are none too happy with some e-lqiuid brands that are selling e-juice flavors that have the same names as their iconic products. The parent of so many famous cereal brands, General Mills, and the Girl Scouts are mad as heck and they’re not going to take it anymore! E-liquid vendors that are making e-liquids like Thin Mints, Tootsie Rolls, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch are being asked to cease and desist using names like “Cinnamon Toast Crunch” and “Thin Mints” on e-juice products.
General Mills, the Girl Scouts and Tootsie Roll industries are sending cease and desist letters to eliquid vendors that are using the names of their products on eliquids. There are a number of e-juice flavors that do use the same names names as popular cereals and famous candies. You can buy Cinnamon Toast Crunch ejuice, Tootsie Roll, Cap’n Crunch eliquid and Thin Mints. Some of the vendors switch up the spelling but the resemblance to iconic products remains obvious.
Trademark infringement is a broad legal category. Any venture does not have to exactly copy the name of an existing product to infringe. The standards include the strength of the mark, in this case the recognition of brand names like Cap’n Crunch, Cinnamon Toast Crunch etc. The similarity to the mark is what is considered so trying to use a trademarked name by making minor changes is probably not going to work out for anyone attempting to copy someone else’s brand success. Also factored in is the “intent of the defendant”. In this instance, the involved companies feel that they are on solid legal ground.
General Mills is certainly none too pleased with the names of their classic cereals showing up on e-liquid bottles. In a statement made to the Star-Tribune, they made their sentiments and intentions well known. “Any use is unauthorized and would constitute an illegal misuse of our marks,” the company strongly stated “General Mills has already sent a cease and desist letter to remove our branding and trademarks from these products – and we will take further action if necessary.”
General Mills issued a very straightforward, business like response to another company that may be infringing on its brand. This is a common business dispute that happens everyday to all sorts of companies. Last year we reported on Blu Cigs battle with Zippo Blu. These types of disputes happen and it is more or less a business reality. However, the criticisms and statements of the Girl Scouts and Tootsie expose an issue that the e-cig industry is currently trying to combat.
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While General Mills statement regarding possible misuse of their proprietary marks was all business, statements released by other companies with the same complaint were much more harsh. The Girl Scouts and Tootsie combined their complaints about infringement with comments that infer a lack of ethics on the part of the ecig industry.
Tootsie Roll Industries is taking steps to prevent eliquids from using the “Tootsie Roll” name to make money. Tootsie Roll Industries President and COO said that their main concern is protecting their trademark. “When you have well-known trademarks, one of your responsibilities is to protect (them) because it’s been such a big investment over the years.”
Tootsie Roll Industries also expressed concerns over the image of their “family oriented” products. They are not excited about the Tootsie Roll name being connected to vaping.
The Girl Scouts, who are not happy with their famous Thin Mints being used as an ejuice flavor, were much more harsh in their complaint. Girl Scouts spokeswoman Kelly Parisi said “Using the Thin Mint name, which is synonymous with Girl Scouts and everything we do to enrich the lives of girls, and to market ecigarettes to youth is deceitful and shameless.”
The idea that ecig companies are marketing to youth is an ecig myth. The evidence shows that adults prefer fruit and candy flavored eliquids to tobacco flavored ejuice flavors. Ecig companies are marketing to adult vapers. Unfortunately, using iconic brand names for eliquids invites the type of criticism that cause ecig companies severe and unnecessary PR problems.
The American E-liquid Manufacturing Standards Association is concerned about eliquids that are using iconic brand names to promote their own products. One board member explains that “It’s the age-old problem with an emerging market. As companies go through their maturity process of going from being a wild entrepreneur to starting to establish real corporate ethics and product stewardship, it’s something that we’re going to continue to see.”
That’s understandable. The evapor business is new and emerging. The competition level is intense with over 500 ecig brands. Everyone is looking for an edge. Still, for the industry, the timing could not be worse.
With FDA ecig regulations on the horizon, many organizations are promoting the idea that the ecig industry is an extension of Big Tobacco and that there is an intentional effort to market vaping to children and teens. When organizations like the Girl Scouts and Tootsie Roll are involved in a complaint against eliquid vendors, this only gives the critics more ammunition to work with.
Getting the truth about ecigs out there is not an easy task. Unfortunately, an ill-advised business strategy of naming an eliquid flavor after an iconic product marketed by a large, influential organization is something that we do not need. The ecig industry self regulates and does not sell to minors. The critics aren’t interested in that. They will use every possible angle to scare people away from vaping and back to tobacco. Perhaps, for the good of the industry as a whole, it would be wise to think about the public perception of putting a famous candy name on an ejuice bottle. The industry is already under the microscope.