In a complaint lodged with the district court of the Eastern district of California, the California Milk Processor Board (CMPD) said that Bridge Brands was unlawfully using the trademarked slogan “got milk?” for chocolate products and accused Bridge of sub-licensing the mark.
It is seeking damages and a preliminary and permanent injunction to stop Bridge from using the term.
San Franciscan chocolate retailer Bridge Brands, which also has a wholesale division, previously licensed the “got milk?” slogan from CMPD between 2002 and 2014 for use on chocolate bars, chocolate tins and cocoa mixes.
CMPD alleges that Bridge Brands CEO Michael Litton unlawfully negotiated royalties of $7,500 to give permission to Massachusetts firm Melville Chocolate to use the “got milk?” mark for a line of Mini Marshmallow Hot Chocolate Spoons.
In May this year, Melville Chocolate was allegedly on the cusp of a deal to supply over 500,000 units of “got milk?” Mini Marshmallow Hot Chocolate Spoons to Wal-Mart and Litton purportedly sent an email to say that Melville could use the “got milk?” label for a 5% commission.
CMPD also contends that Bridge Brands broke an agreement to stop selling its own “got milk?” products after March 2014.
In September 2013, Bridge Brands attempted to register a trade mark for “Got Milk Chocolate?” for chocolate products.
But it abandoned the registration two months later after it agreed a settlement deal with CMPD. According to CMPD, the settlement allowed Bridge to sell off its remaining “got milk?” inventory until March 2014 and CMPD agreed it would not pursue the confectioner for any past royalties. However Litton was not party to the agreement.
CMPD alleges that Bridge was selling “got milk?” products after March 2014. It is calling for a court order to stop Bridge from using the mark and is seeking damages.
Got milk vs got dark
Litton told ConfectioneryNews that his company moved away from the CMPD slogan in 2013 to its own “got chocolate?” and “got dark?” brands of chocolate, and “Milk Lover’s” brand of flavoring straws.
“We believe the suit may be an attempt to intimidate Bridge Brands and interfere with the sales of our products including ‘got dark? Chocolate’ and ‘Milk Lover’s’ flavored straws.”
“If the suit proceeds, it would seem to be a case of ‘David versus Goliath’ , or in this case, ‘got milk?’ versus ‘got dark?’”
CMPD was setup in 1993 to promote fluid milk consumption in California. It licenses its “got milk?” trademark across the US, which it obtained in 1993. The Board has been contacted for comment.