A lawsuit alleges Chi-Town Vapers has attempted to take advantage of the century old Wrigley brands by selling "Dbl Mint" and "Joosy Fruit" e-cigarette liquids online and at its Bensenville retail location. (Nam Y. Huh / AP)
When it comes to protecting its Juicy Fruit and Doublemint brand names, Wrigley is not just blowing smoke.
The venerable Chicago-based candy giant filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against a suburban manufacturer, accusing it of appropriating its iconic gum brands to market flavored liquids used in electronic cigarettes.
The federal lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, alleges Chi-Town Vapers has attempted to take advantage of the century old Wrigley brands by selling "Dbl Mint" and "Joosy Fruit" e-cigarette liquids online and at its Bensenville retail location. Flavored vape liquids contain nicotine, which is inhaled through e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking tobacco.
"The use of popular candy brands in the marketing, sales and promotion of e-cigarettes is … grossly deceptive and irresponsible," Michelle Green, a Wrigley spokeswoman, said in a statement Monday. "We strongly condemn these actions, which are directly at odds with our anti-tobacco policy and our strict marketing standards."
The flavored liquids, which were still available on the Chi-Town Vapers website Monday, feature logos that "copy the look and feel" of the gum packaging, according to the lawsuit, including green and yellow colors and the "double arrow" design.
Robert Wilson, named as the owner of Chi-Town Vapers and Chi-Town Labs in the lawsuit, did not respond immediately Monday to a request for comment.
William Wrigley Jr. founded his namesake company in Chicago in 1891 as a soap company and started producing Juicy Fruit and Doublemint gum soon thereafter. The company registered the trademarks for both brands in 1915.
The packaging for both brands has evolved over the years, but elements have been consistent for more than a century, with Wrigley investing "millions of dollars and significant effort" to advertise and promote the brands, making them "extremely valuable" corporate assets, the lawsuit says.
Wrigley was acquired in 2008 by the privately held Virginia-based Mars candy company for $23 billion.
Wrigley attorneys first reached out to Chi-Town Vapers in July 2014, asking the company to stop selling products that at the time were being marketed as Juicy Fruit, Doublemint and Skittles, which is also a Wrigley brand, the lawsuit says.
Chi-Town Vapers did not respond to that letter but removed images of the infringing products from the website, according to the lawsuit.
The remedy, however, didn’t stick. By November 2015, Chi-Town Vapers was marketing the similarly branded Dbl Mint vape liquid, with Joosy Fruit Gum relaunched in January, the lawsuit stated.
Chi-Town Vapers also is selling a flavor on its website branded "Skiddles," which is described as "a rainbow of flavors, very tasty like Skittles," but that product is not named in the lawsuit.
"Maybe people like flavors they’re familiar with," Doug Masters, an attorney representing Wrigley, said Monday. "I thought people liked things that taste like cigarettes."
The lawsuit is seeking an injunction against selling any products "confusingly similar" to the Wrigley trademarks, a recall of such products from distribution channels, undisclosed damages and all profits obtained by Chi-Town Vapers through the alleged trademark infringement.