Seattle pot co-op sued by Hershey's for trademark infringement

SEATTLE -- A national candy company is suing a Seattle marijuana cooperative for using the names and designs of its popular brands to sell cannabis products.

The Hershey Company filed a complaint for trademark infringement and dilution in U.S. District Court on Tuesday against Conscious Care Cooperative and claims the cooperative's actions have "tarnished" the chocolate company.

According to the lawsuit, the cooperative is selling cannabis products using names, marks and designs that are imitations of Hershey's Reese's and Mr. Goodbar. Some of the cooperative's product names that imitate Reese's include "Reefer's Peanut Butter Cups" and "Kush Peanut Butter Cups." The packaging on those products resembles the design of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, which was first introduced in 1928.

The package design for the cooperative's chocolate candy "Mr. Dankbar" closely resembles Mr. Goodbar.

"I think it's just a simple market strategy - mimicking brands that are pre-existing," said Vivian McPeak who is the Executive Director of Seattle Hempfest.

McPeak said there's "a little" controversy within the cannabis movement as to whether or not candy should be sold as a form of medicine.

"Some people in the cannabis movement have some concerns whether candy is the appropriate way to deliver medical marijuana because of the propensity for children to get ahold of it," said McPeak.

The safety of children is also a concern of The Hershey Company that fears consumers may inadvertently ingest the cooperative's products thinking that they are ordinary chocolate candy.

In a statement, company spokesman Jeff Beckman said, "Consumers depend on our brand names to represent a level of quality and dependability. These entities have used Hershey's trademarks, without authorization, to trade on Hershey's goodwill and reputation."

"This is a time - a new frontier, a lot of changing policies within our country right now and I think these are issues that we're going to be grappling with as the cannabis industry grows up and moves to the next level and becomes a more mainstream commodity," said McPeak.

The Conscious Care Cooperative has two shops in North Seattle and Greenwood, but workers at both locations declined to comment. According to the complaint, the cooperative sold the products at its retail locations and online.

The Hershey Company filed a similar lawsuit in Colorado on Tuesday that was against a company that's manufacturing and selling marijuana products that also use The Hershey Company's trademarks.