Pez Candy Inc sues Museum of Pez Memorabilia for copyright infringement

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(Photo by Plug1 of whatimseeing.com)

Oh, this is stupid and sad. Pez Candy Inc., makers of pixel-y candy dosed out in those iconic character dispensers, is suing the Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia for copyright infringement. Doctor Popular blogs about it over at Laughing Squid:

The suit, filed last week, claims that the museum deceives the public into believing they are operating under the authority of Pez and asks that the museum’s 7 foot tall replica of Pez dispenser be destroyed. The lawsuit also takes issue with the museum’s sales of toy truck Pez dispensers which had been modified with Obama and McCain logos during last years elections. The museum has been opened since 1995 and is said to be the only place in the world were you can see every Pez dispenser ever made.
Pez Suing Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia (Laughing Squid)

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Update: The love that dare not Pez its name. At left, Scott Beale snapped this scandalous pic proving what Star Wars slashfic scribes have long known: The 'droid hearts Chewie, as evidenced in two giant Pez dispensers. Lawsuits be damned. C-3PO & Chewbacca, Together At Last.

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  1. “hmm let’s see how can we make our company look more evil to the public eye? I know, sue our greatest fans and customers! for they have used our name without permission. our reputation must not be damaged, public relations be damned!

  2. I waffle back and forth on the copyfight posts, but this one seems like such a dumb action by Pez that it may sway me on the whole matter.

  3. “The Moxie Museum” (officially the Kennebec Fruit Co.) in Lisbon Falls, Maine had a similar, though long since solved, problem.

  4. The Pez company threatened to sue a similar small Pez museum in Easton, Pa., in 2003.

    From The Express-Times of Easton:

    “I’m not an ogre,” said [Scott] McWhinnie, who has headed the company in Orange, Conn., for nearly 20 years. “We lose our trademark if we allow it to be used improperly. We are obligated to prosecute if it’s going to be misused.”

    Seems like a Catch 22 if you’re going to market a collectible item, and then not allow people to identify the collectible item by it’s best known name. Just try to describe a Pez dispenser without using the name Pez.

    The candy’s disgusting, anyway. The dispensers are the product.

  5. If it wasn’t for the collectible/nostalgia factor, Pez would be long out of business. That stuff is gross.

  6. Sounds like the Pez people do have a good point — the museum owners created a 7 foot tall thing that looks like a Pez dispenser, and actually named it a Pez dispenser, and made certificates stating that the items dispensed from it were dispensed from the “world’s biggest Pez dispenser”. But it isn’t a Pez dispenser, it’s a low budget thing made to resemble one.

    I didn’t see anything asking them to change the name of the museum, just asking them to stop calling their home woodshop project a Pez dispenser.

  7. Take it all out into the parking lot and burn it. We don’t need to remember copytards, patentards and trademarktards like this. Let ’em slip from memory, we have plenty of other companies that want to be remembered.

  8. I suppose that calling the Pez Museum and working with them to showcase Pez products, oddities and even set-up a bigger/better stocked museum store was considered and rejected as far too sensible an idea?

  9. I’m with #11, though I see the point of #8.

    But PEZ and their attorneys aren’t automatons, I would think they could protect the trademark by licensing the Museum’s use of the trademark in promoting Pez products and paraphernalia for a trival fee, even renew it annually to allow review and thus preserving their right to prosecute knock-off pez products that are obviously infringing. Good PR move, the museum promotes continued interest in the product, and Pez protects their mark.

    But then again, that would be civil.

  10. @hallpass, Ok, so they charge the museum $1 for the name PEZ to be used. Trademark is upheld and they still retain control. Not too hard…

  11. For what is a company profited, if it gain control of its trademark, and lose its own soul?

    Seriously though, this was an absolute no-brainer, screwed up by incompetent legal advice. #13 and #12 have it right: license them the damn trademark.

    It’s probably not too late, even.

  12. DECKARD68 @8: Technically, they refer to it as “The World’s Largest Dispenser of Pez”. And since it is a device that dispenses Pez candies, I don’t see why they can’t call it that. If the specific term “Pez Dispenser” is trademarked, they still have gone around that.

    And for anybody planning a trip to the museum in Easton, PA, it is sadly gone. I’m not sure if they closed due to lack of business or lawsuit or what, but I was in town a few years ago and intended to stop by, only to see it had closed.

  13. Evidently, they looked up at the seven foot tall PEZ dispenser and their little brick-shaped brains popped right out of their necks.

    Morans.

  14. I used to live in San Mateo, adjacent to Burlingame, and though I never visited said Pez museum, also never thought it was anything official, just an act of love.

    My wife says Pez shouldn’t be suing them – they should be giving them an award!; after people visit the museum, they are in a Pez buying mood.

  15. Cory said:

    “For what is a company profited,
    if it gain control of its trademark, and lose its own soul?”
    —————————–

    Almost by strict definition, companies do not have Souls.

    The prime deception (whether by PEZ or ENRON) is making us consumers believe that they care, want and/or love us…when in reality, companies only need us so that we’ll buy their particular products.

    And yes, PEZ candy itself is truly rancid.

  16. Sounds like the Pez people do have a good point — the museum owners created a 7 foot tall thing that looks like a Pez dispenser, and actually named it a Pez dispenser, and made certificates stating that the items dispensed from it were dispensed from the “world’s biggest Pez dispenser”.

    No they didn’t. They made a 7 foot tall thing that looks like a Pez dispenser and named it the worlds largest dispenser of Pez and considering it dispenses Pez, that’s perfectly correct.

    But it isn’t a Pez dispenser, it’s a low budget thing made to resemble one.

    It is a Pez dispenser. It dispenses Pez. Hell if you put a whole bunch of Pez in your mouth and spit them at someone you are a Pez Dispenser.

    I didn’t see anything asking them to change the name of the museum, just asking them to stop calling their home woodshop project a Pez dispenser.

    No they asked them to destroy the 7″ high worlds largest dispenser of Pez and they are suing them.

    My bet is they’re doing this because they’re planning on opening their own museum and they don’t want to have any competition. I can understand why they’d do this, but it’s still evil.

  17. I asked my mom to take me there around 1996 or so because as a child I was a lover of pez and pez related products. At the time, the pez museum was the rear quarter of a computer store. I don’t know if they upgraded their digs since then, but if not, just lay off the geeks. Also, I don’t think it’s possible for them to own every dispenser.

  18. I live in Palo Alto and have been to that museum. Whatever, it’s just a ‘museum’ paying homage to retail crap that PEZ really is.

    PEZ has every right to asset control over how and where it’s name and all that are being used for profit. It does seem heavy handed, at least as it is written up here. But how do we know PEZ did try to come up with a license agreement but simply could not? Or the museum is being difficult?

    Or whatever, they still have the right to control the PEZ name and copyright, end-of-story. If the museum owners don’t like it, pay homage to something else they have control over and/or can legally show and promote.

    Frankly, though, the idea of paying homage to any retail item is stupid. It’s not art, it’s not anything but stuff you buy. It’s just junk that is sold.

  19. I live around the corner from this delightful tribute to PEZ museum. Truly awesome collection which Pez should be humbled by. Nowhere do they state to operate under the authority of PEZ Inc., but I’m sure they buy and sell plenty of product from and for PEZ Inc. Hope the makers wise up before all their fans get PEZZED off!

  20. EH @10 you people are lame. i buy pez candy and eat it without a dispenser.

    I used to love orange pez because it tasted just like children’s aspirin. Pez kept me from forming an aspirin habit as a kid.

    Itsumishi @20 It is a Pez dispenser. It dispenses Pez. Hell if you put a whole bunch of Pez in your mouth and spit them at someone you are a Pez Dispenser.

    That is so completely brilliant. Now all the museum has to do is find a really tall guy and pay him to spit pez out at visitors, and he’ll be the new world’s largest dispenser of pez.

  21. they still have the right to control the PEZ name and copyright, end-of-story

    No, they don’t. Trademark law does not allow you to just stop anyone from using your registered mark for any reason; there are strict limits to when you can do so.

    US trademark law specifically allows you to freely use someone else’s trademark to identify that trademarked product. i.e., “we have a museum filled with PEZ dispensers”, or just “PEZ Museum” is perfectly legal, so long as the museum actually contains real PEZ products.

  22. Pez corpo is dumb and dull from my own experiences. When the movie “Stand by Me” came out, there was this great Pez commercial:

    “If you had one food to eat for the rest of your life — what would it be?”

    “Easy — Cherry Pez.”

    Not only was this in the movie, but it was featured in the movies’ trailers.

    I wrote Pez about this, figuring they would be wise about this in the aftermath of the whole Reces Pieces debacle. Wise, because currently in the stores at the time of the movie — YOU COULD NOT GET CHERRY PEZ!

    So I asked them if they planned to restock in light of the success of the movie, the trailers, the cultural resonance, etc.

    I got a form letter back telling me why lemon pez was good enough for me.

    Urrgh.

    As for the clowns in the discussion above who say the candy tastes horrible — not to kids. Its like watching a Full House episode years later and realizing its awful.

  23. I would think this was a stupid lawsuit if they were still letting people into the museum for free. But they aren’t–they charge upwards of $5 to walk through a small room of stuff they once bought for 30 cents.

  24. It *used* to be that having a trademark on Pez meant that nobody else could market a candy with that name. Brand dilution was if people started using the word ‘pez’ when they meant ‘candy.’

    How the heck did that turn into the right to control what anybody does with a Pez dispenser ever?

  25. Demanding that the museum stop selling modified Pez dispensers demonstrates that the company doesn’t understand the Doctrine of Exhaustion. As long as the museum doesn’t misrepresent the modified dispensers as being unmodified products of Pez Candy Inc., they have no basis for a complaint.

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