Thu Mar 25, 2010 @ 10:30AM PST
By Eriq Gardner
Colorful button-shaped candies are both delicious and litigious.
Mars Company, maker of M&Ms, has for years been dressing up the bite-sized candies as colorful characters in ads. Promotions have included M&Ms dressed as characters from "Star Wars," "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Transformers."
But Mars may have met its match with Zorro Prods., which claims to be the owner of trademarks associated with the character of Zorro, the masked Spanish avenger who has been the subject of feature films, television programs, novels and comic books.
Zorro Prods. is suing Mars and ad agency BBDO Worldwide in California district court, alleging the defendants created a promotion timed for Halloween that dressed an M&M character as Zorro. The plaintiff says it's trademark/trade dress infringement, made worse by Mars slapping its own trademark registration mark over the Zorro candy character. Alleged damages are at least $500,000. Here's the complaint.
Back in 2008, a guy who dresses as a naked cowboy in Times Square (New York) sued Mars for privacy and false advertising when he saw a cowboy M&M character. Surprisingly, he found some success in his claim when a judge refused to dismiss the case
. Later that year, the case was settled amicably under undisclosed terms.