Hershey melts Michigan company's plans

October 28, 2008 5:36:06 AM PDT
A furniture company's attempt to mix a sofa with chocolate has melted.

A federal judge ordered Art Van Furniture of Warren to stop promoting a truck design that shows a sofa being unwrapped from a chocolate bar.

U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts ruled Friday in a lawsuit filed by Hershey Co., which claimed the marketing campaign infringed on its trademarks and fame among consumers.

Art Van and Hershey are not in the same business, but reducing any customer confusion serves the public interest, Roberts said.

Art Van is asking the public to go to its Web site and vote for one of 10 proposed designs for delivery trucks. The judge ordered the "couch bar" art to come down immediately.

Art Van said it was simply a parody of a Hershey bar.

"We have so many great designs to use. That was just a fun one. We'll move forward without it," company spokeswoman Chris Morrisroe said Monday.

It was the favorite in a contest that ends Oct. 31. It's now been replaced by a picture of a man who trims a tree to make the Art Van logo.

A message seeking comment was left with Hershey.

Despite ruling in favor of the Pennsylvania-based candy giant, the judge pointed out differences between a chocolate maker and a furniture seller.

"While both parties cater to the general public, there is no indication that their customers are predominantly the same," Roberts wrote.

"Even if their customer bases overlap to some extent ... the risk of consumers confusing a furniture outlet with a candy store, or vice versa, appears remote," she said.


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