Sweet as Candy? Sugarfina takes Competitor to Court

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On June 15th, Sugarfina Inc. (“Sugarfina”), a gourmet candy boutique, sued one of its competitors, Sweet Pete’s LLC (“Sweet Pete’s”), accusing Sweet Pete’s of trade dress, copyright, trademark, and patent infringement, as well as unfair business practices. The suit was filed in the Central District of California under the title Sugarfina, Inc. v. Sweet Pete’s LLC et al., 1:217-cv-04456.

Sugarfina, founded in 2012, is part of what has been dubbed the “luxury sweets” trend (think cupcakes, French macaroons, even rosé–infused gummy bears) and sells high-end, unique candy that is handpicked from around the world. The California company recently launched tequila-infused gummies– a new product in partnership with George Clooney’s tequila line, Casamigos.

According to Sugarfina’s complaint, the idea behind the brand came after the founders (a couple who met on Match.com), went to a screening of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Originally having only an online presence, Sugarfina now operates over 24 retail boutiques and employs over 300 people. Sugarfina claims that it has extensive intellectual property protection including design patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade dress protection.

According to Sugarfina, Defendant Sweet Pete’s, a Florida-based competitor, was a “failing business prior to its radical transformation into a Sugarfina copycat.” The founders of Sweet Pete’s allegedly went from earning only $10,000 in 2013 to $260,000 a month as of September 21, 2016. Sugarfina attributes Sweet Pete’s success, at least in part, to its use of similar design elements of Sugarfina’s packaging and marketing, going from using “generic packaging” and having the “aesthetic of a children’s candy store” to copying the look and feel of Sugarina’s distinctive packaging marketed toward sophisticated, adult customers. Amongst the violations alleged, Sweet Pete’s allegedly copied “application icons” in which Sugarfina has valid trademark rights—including “Cuba Libre” and “Peach Bellini.”

Sugarfina demanded that Sweet Pete’s cease its infringement activities as early as March 15, 2016, but they refused to comply, leading to this lawsuit. In its demand for relief, Sugarfina seeks damages along with preliminary and permanent injunctions to stop the alleged violations and secure compensation for the violations that have been committed.

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