Sugarfina Inc. (“Sugarfina”), a high-end candy retailer, recently filed suit against competitor Sweet Pete’s LLC (“Sweet Pete’s”) alleging copyright, trademark, and trade dress infringement of its products and packaging. Sugarfina considers itself a candy retailer known for its unique and luxurious products. The complaint alleges that Sweet Pete’s uses several design elements of Sugarfina’s distinctive packaging and marketing, including use of exact or near-exact replicas of Sugarfina’s trademarks, packaging labels, shapes and containers. For example, Sugarfina packages some of its products in three-by-three cell candy bento boxes. Sugarfina alleges that Sweet Pete’s began marketing a “copycat” bento box in 2015.

Sugarfina alleges that consumers have turned to social media to voice their confusion over the similarity of Sugarfina and Sweet Pete’s products. Sugarfina is seeking injunctive relief and treble damages, alleging that Sweet Pete’s is willfully infringing.

TAKEAWAY: Design and packaging for products are still subject to trade dress, trademark, and copyright rules.  Not all individual packaging elements of a product garner protection against infringement. However, when looked at together, the combination of all of the elements may be protectable.  Companies should therefore heed caution in packaging their products in a manner similar to that of another’s—particularly those of competitors.