A Spanish startup selling "bears with alcohol" is being sued by the inventor of the gummy bear.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated January 21, 2020
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Tiny gummy bears might seem innocent enough, but apparently if you booze them up, they can cause problems—and not because they're drunk. A Spanish startup making alcoholic gummy bears has reportedly been sent a cease-and-desist letter from Haribo—the German candy company that invented gummy bears—claiming that this new product is an intoxicating trademark infringement.

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About a year ago, Osito & Co—a company started in Spain's Basque country by three 20-something college friends—began selling "ositos con alcohol," which is Spanish for "bears with alcohol." These gummies are 15-percent alcohol—meaning it takes about 15 bears to equal one drink like a glass of wine—and are sold in small bags or tins in a variety of flavors: rum and pineapple, gin and strawberry, vodka an orange, whisky and coke, and tequila and lemon. (A tin sells for about $10 and holds 30 bears, so about two drinks' worth.)

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According to the AFP, which reported on the dispute, initially, concern emerged that the boozy bears would appeal to underage drinkers—and so the company's website does state that "Despite its iconic shape, bears with alcohol are exclusively for adults." But turns out that "iconic shape" may be an even bigger problem.

Co-founder Ander Mendez told the AFP they received a six-page letter that "explained in very threatening English that we were copying their trademarked product, that what we were doing was unfair competition." He added, "We're not doing any harm to their brand and the bears don't even look similar."

For their part, Haribo confirmed to the AFP that, not only had they sent the letter, but they have also begun legal action. "As normal in such cases, Haribo has started judicial proceedings to protect its registered trademarks," a spokesperson was quoted as saying. Haribo has not been shy about protecting the bear in the past. In one recent prominent battle, Haribo even took issue with Lindt for producing a gold foil-covered chocolate bear that Haribo said looked like its logo. (They eventually lost the court case of "gummy v. chocolate.")

Meanwhile, even though Osito & Co told the AFP they "don't have enough resources to take on a legal case," Mendez reportedly stated that, at this point, they will keep the boozy bears flowing "as we have done until now." I wonder if there's a way to contribute to an alcoholic bear's defense fund.