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Issue Date: Vol. 47, No. 6, June 2007, Posted On: 6/15/2007

Vendomatic, Flatline Settle Hershey Trademark Lawsuit

Hank Schlesinger

FREDERICK, MD — A lawsuit brought by The Hershey Co. against Vendomatic has been settled for an undisclosed amount. Believed to be the first of its kind in the bulk vending industry, the suit centered on copyright infringement regarding parody stickers that depicted the candymaker’s York Peppermint Patties as Dork Peppermint Patties. Unique to the case was the fact that the candymaker sued the operating company as well as manufacturer of the sticker.  

Produced by Flatline Corp., which settled its part of the lawsuit with Hershey earlier in the year, the offending sticker was part of its PsychoParody #1 series. Comprised of parodies of well-known company logos and names, the line is said to be nearly two years old with a very limited number still in circulation.

According to Flatline’s Ryan Burns, the settlement will indemnify Vendomatic, as well as other operators, against action by the candymaker. Flatline, said Burns, has sent its customers a letter regarding the sticker line and settlement.

The Pennsylvania-based candy manufacturer filed the lawsuit March 28 in the U.S. District Court of Maryland. In the suit, Hershey alleged that the sticker infringed on the York trademark and diluted its distinctiveness in the marketplace. According to the suit, the “Defendant’s unauthorized use of the York Trade Dress was a deliberate effort to trade off the value and goodwill established by Hershey.”

Since parody is typically seen as protected as an expression of free speech, the suit garnered press and legal attention beyond the bulk vending industry. In an interesting twist, Hershey has also sued a California drug dealer who packaged marijuana-based candies as parodies of Hershey products, such as Stoney Rancher.

Filed early last month in the U.S. District Court in San Jose, the suit, which seeks $100,000 in damages, alleges Kenneth Affolter committed trademark infringement and trademark dilution.

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