HARIBO has launched legal action against a plucky group of young entrepreneurs over their alcohol-infused gummy bears.
The group came under pressure from the confectionary giant after it was alleged that their jelly sweets were ‘too similar’.
Ander Mendez and his pals, fellow engineer Julen Justa, 25, and Tamar Gigolashvili, a 24-year-old law and management graduate were handed a ‘cease and desist’ letter by Haribo, which owns the trademark on the gummy bear’s shape and recipe.
Their Bilbao-based start-up Osito & Co. was handed the strongly-worded letter from the German sweet brand after it noticed distinct similarities between their alcoholic bears and Haribo’s trademark gummy bears.
Mendez and his friends started their venture a year ago and soon won an enterprise grant from their local council.
Osito & Co’s product, a high-end alcoholic gummy bear is available in five flavours and comes in stylish metal tins, perfect as a snack in upmarket bars and cocktail establishments.
Each of the sweets contains 15% alcohol, with seven to nine of the gummies equalling a 150ml glass of wine, while 15 to 17% would be the equivalent of a gin and tonic.
In contrast, Haribo’s offering is a well-known staple of the company’s arsenal, and has been its best-selling sweet for years around the world.
Mendez and his team are currently seeking legal advice on the issue but are adamant that they will keep producing their product as they are becoming more and more popular throughout the Basque Country.
It is not the first time Haribo has taken competitors to court.
In 2012 they took legal action against Lindt after it took offence to the chocolatier’s gold-covered bears, saying they were an imitation of its jelly sweets.
After a long-running court case, the judge finally ruled in favour with the chocolate-makers, saying the chocolate bears couldn’t possibly be mistaken for the jelly bears.