WASHINGTON — The Hershey company says a Maryland candidate is milking its classic chocolate bar for political gain.
Hershey’s is suing state Sen. Stephen S. Hershey Jr., accusing him of improperly using signs and other campaign materials that mimic the look of a Hershey’s candy bar.
The company says in the federal lawsuit filed Friday that the candidate’s brown, rectangular campaign logo with white writing imitates the Hershey’s bar packaging with its brown background and silver and white writing. Both use similar lettering for the word “Hershey,” which appears in all capital letters in the center of both designs, but where the chocolate bar says “milk chocolate,” the politician’s logo says “state senate.”
Unlike the chocolate bar, the candidate’s logo has a two-tone brown background in the pattern of the state flag.
But the candy company says in its lawsuit filed in Maryland that the combination of the light, block letter writing and brown background in a color the company calls “Hershey maroon” is problematic. The company said in a statement Tuesday that it believes “this is an unauthorized use of our distinctive and famous design” and that it may “mislead consumers into believing that Steve Hershey is somehow affiliated with or endorsed by The Hershey Company.”
But Hershey, the politician, said in a statement Tuesday that his campaign’s actions were “lawful and the exercise of my constitutional rights.”
Hershey has been told his family tree intersects with that of Milton S. Hershey, the candy company’s founder, but they are not close relatives.
This isn’t the first time the candy company and candidate have clashed.
The company says in its lawsuit that the dispute dates to 2002 when Hershey was running to be a county commissioner and used similar campaign materials. The company says it wrote Hershey asking him to stop and he did for a time after the election. But the company says he brought back the offending design during his 2010 campaign for state delegate, prompting renewed protests from the Pennsylvania chocolate company and a promise from candidate Hershey to change his campaign materials’ font and color in the future.
Hershey said in his statement that in the past he has used his name “on brown background signs with the knowledge and permission” of the company. He said he’d been in discussions with the company over the last months but “an understanding and agreement was unable to be reached this time.”
Now, among other things, the company wants a judge to bar Hershey from using materials with his last name “in block text or on a brown or maroon background” and to pay for the cost of the lawsuit.
Hershey served in Maryland House of Delegates from 2011 to 2013, when he was appointed to a state senate seat. He is now running for re-election.