Maryland state Sen. Stephen S. Hershey Jr. is embroiled in a not-so-sweet legal battle with Hershey’s after the chocolate company claimed he is ripping off its signature candy bar logo in his campaign materials.
The Pennsylvania-based chocolate company filed a lawsuit in federal court in Maryland Friday against Hershey, a Republican who is running for election after being appointed to his seat in 2013. The company claims his campaign posters are too similar to its logo for its iconic candy bar.
“Hershey’s use of this trade dress is a blatant attempt to use the fame and equity the plaintiffs have built in (the company’s) trade dress to draw more attention to his campaign,” the lawsuit states.
However, Hershey said he is fighting back against the company’s claims, saying he does not want to be “pushed around” into changing a logo he says is uniquely his.
“I’m just really surprised that Hershey’s is taking it this far,” he told FoxNews.com.
Hershey said he initially ran into trouble with the company in 2010 when he was campaigning for the Maryland House of Delegates. He said the company contacted him and told him he was infringing upon its intellectual property with his campaign materials.
However, he said the company told him he could use his existing materials for the remainder of the primary campaign, which the company also states in its lawsuit.
This time around, Hershey said, he decided to be proactive and sent the chocolate company a new design he was planning on using for this campaign. According to Hershey, he has since then been negotiating with the company over the new campaign materials, which feature his name in white letters superimposed on top of the Maryland flag in brown.
However, Hershey said the candy company refused to compromise, and was asking for him to concede “way too much.” Through a mediator he told the company he was done negotiating, and they subsequently filed the lawsuit.
“They have just taken a very different tone this year and it’s unfortunate,” Hershey said.
The company argues that the candidate’s materials are confusing for the public, and give the wrong impression the company is sponsoring or has approved his campaign.
“Defendants’ acts are causing and will continue to cause damage and irreparable harm to Hershey and to its valuable reputation and goodwill with purchasers and consumers,” the lawsuit states.
The company is asking for Hershey to be barred from using his name on campaign signs “in block text or on a brown or maroon background” and to be forced to pay for the cost of the lawsuit, among other things.
Hershey said he was simply trying to differentiate himself from other candidates by using brown on his signs instead of red white and blue. He said he has not been served the lawsuit yet, and is not sure what his next step will be.
“I’m just out trying to win a campaign so I can represent the people I am trying to serve now,” he said.