Hershey’s v. Jacques Torres: The Lawyer-to-Lawyer Slapdown!


As mentioned earlier today, a lawyer for the Hershey Company has sent a stern letter to Jacques Torres warning him against using the name Champagne Kiss for one of his bonbons. Its smoking-gun day here on Grub Street (speaking of the Smoking Gun check out Lou Reeds catering rider, posted today!), so read ahead for the letter Torres received, and his snappy reply.

The cease-and-desist:

Dear Mr. Torres:

It has come to the attention of the Hershey Company that Jacques Torres Chocolate is selling a chocolate product called Champagne Kiss or Champagne Kisses. We are concerned by your use of the name Champagne Kiss and Champagne Kisses in connection with this product as it infringes upon a number of trademarks used by The Hershey Company.

For your information, the mark KISSES is the subject of federal trademark registrations (Reg. Nos. 2,416,701; 3,363, 296, and 3,493,764 among others) which are owned by the Hershey Chocolate & Confectionery Corporation, a subsidiary of The Hershey Company. In addition, Hershey and its subsidiary (herein together referred to as Hershey) have acquired numerous other federal and common law rights in the KISSES mark stemming from our long-standing use of this mark in connection with our famous HERSHEYs KISSES chocolates. Through substantial use and promotion, the KISSES mark is considered a famous mark and is afforded a broad scope of protection under trademark law.

Hershey is concerned that Jacques Torres Chocolates use of the mark KISS or KISSES may cause consumer confusion with Hershey as to the source, sponsorship, or affiliation of Jacques Torres Chocolates product. Even in the absence of any likelihood of confusion, Jacques Torres Chocolates use of these Hershey-owned trademarks will dilute the trademarks in violation of federal and state anti-dilution statutes.

Therefore, we demand that Jacques Torres Chocolate immediately discontinue its use of the mark KISSES or KISSES in connection with its chocolate candies. Please respond in writing by April 20th regarding what steps Jacques Torres Chocolate has taken or will be taking to accommodate these demands.

Nothing in this letter should be construed as a waiver, relinquishment or election of rights or remedies by Hershey. Hershey expressly reserves all rights and remedies under all applicable federal and state laws.

And Torres's lawyer replies:

Dear Ms. Duquette:

Mr. Jacques Torres has referred your writing of April 2, 2009 to me for response. Directly to the point, Mr. Torres will not discontinue his use of the term Champagne Kiss. We believe that this is yet another example of a giant, monolithic corporation attempting to take advantage of the little guy, in this case, a world-renowned artisan from France.

Ms. Duquette, I can report to you that your concern of consumer confusion is without merit. Consider the following:

I. The chocolates of Jacques Torres are considered high end and are not mass-produced and marketed as Hersheys products are.
II. The first ingredient in Jacques Champagne Kiss is champagne. We are unaware of Hersheys using champagne in any of its products.
III. The shape of Jacques product is rectangular and flatnothing like a Hersheys Kiss.
IV. The price points are radically different.
V. The availability of Hersheys products versus the availability of products of Jacques Torres differs radically.
VI. The Champagne Kiss of Jacques Torres has an imprint of lips. The Hersheys Kiss does not have any such imprint.
VII. Jacques product is called Champagne Kiss. That is, the product is described in the singular, not the plural.
VIII. The quality of the two products, in terms of ingredients, is like night and day.

Ms. Duquette, there are multiple other reasons why the Champagne Kiss of Jacques Torres will never be confused with a Hershey Kiss.

Mr. Torres vigorously disputes your contention that he is using or infringing upon a Hershey-owned trademark. The analogy might be similar to Chevrolet complaining that Rolls Royce is infringing on the Chevrolet trademark.

Ms. Duquette, in summary, if a jury needs to decide this issue, then so be it.

Earlier: Hersheys Tells Jacques Torres to Kiss His Champagne Bonbons Good-bye