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Mars – Helping You Work, Rest & Play (and improve blood circulation?)

Posted in Advertising, Infringement, Marketing, Mixed Bag of Nuts, Squirrelly Thoughts, Trademark Bullying, Trademarks

While browsing my daily trademark news and digesting some recent chocolate-related trademark litigation, to be discussed below, I happened upon some interesting discussions and histories of slogans for candy, including in particular, the MARS® chocolate bar.

Back in 1960, Mars Inc. debuted its slogan for the MARS® chocolate bar: “A Mars a Day, Helps You Work, Rest, and Play.” I guess it’s not my favorite slogan–a bit clunky, and perhaps it borders too closely on a questionable health-benefit claim.  (I prefer Crispety, Crunchety, Peanut-Buttery, Butterfinger, maybe because it’s a tongue-twister, but probably because it’s my favorite candy.)

Anyway, the MARS® slogan held strong for decades. The vintage MARS® commercials available on YouTube are quite a treat, although they probably would not test as well in our present day health-conscious advertising environment. The ads highlight the benefits of MORE sugar and MORE glucose added in a larger bar (“the biggest ever!”), with visual depictions of dumping pounds of sugar in a candy mix. Linked here are some enjoyable TV ads from the 1960s and 1980s. There have also been some brief reappearances of the slogan in more recent advertising.

More recently, Mars Inc. launched a health-focused venture with its Mars Symbioscience business and product line, which includes the powdered dietary supplement CocoaVia® (Reg. No. 4179465). Mars claims that its cocoa extract supplement, with naturally occurring “cocoa flavanols,”  promotes “healthy blood flow from head to toe,” which is important for “cardiovascular health.” The supplement is available in either capsule form, or in flavored powdered stick packs that can be mixed into drinks, such as milk or smoothies.

Back to trademark news. A couple weeks ago, Mars Inc. filed a federal trademark infringement complaint in Virginia, asserting that its registered CocoaVia® mark, for its dietary supplement powder, is being infringed by the use of the mark CocoVaa, a brand of handmade fine chocolates. Mars Inc. sued both the company CocoVaa LCC, based in Madison, Wisconsin, as well as the company’s owner, Syovata Edari. In the past week, Ms. Edari has launched a strong public stand against Mars Inc., calling this a case of “trademark bullying” in a flurry of  interviews in local and national (and even some foreign) media outlets.

Although the names are similar, Ms. Edari notes that her fine chocolates are “distinctly different” than Mars Inc.’s dietary supplement powders, that they have different packaging, and that they appear in “different consumer spheres,” such that consumers would be unlikely to think there’s a connection between the two brands. A spokeswoman for Mars Inc. responded that “we work hard to create and build our brands, and so we protect our trademark rights,” but declined to comment further on the pending lawsuit.

What do you think? Stay tuned for updates.