Tootsie Roll Sues Footwear Company for Trademark Infringement

By Joseph Mandour on November 22, 2011

high-heel-thumb-200x150-30643 California – Chicago-based candy manufacturer Tootsie Roll Industries is suing a small footwear company for trademark infringement over its use of its Footzyrolls shoe.

Tootsie Roll’s lawsuit, filed this week in Illinois federal court, alleges that Rollashoe, a company that makes rollable ballet slippers called Footzyrolls, is infringing on the candy-maker’s Tootsie Roll brand. The complaint went on to allege that the Footzyrolls shoe brand will confuse and “deceive” consumers into thinking that the shoes are associated with the candy company’s line of products.

In its complaint, Tootsie Roll, which made $521 million in sales last year, claims that the $2 million Rollashoe’s actions were “willful, malicious, and fraudulent.” Launched in 1896, the manufacturer of the iconic chewy, chocolate candy, is also claiming that Footzyrolls, which launched in 2009, will dilute or tarnish the value of the Tootsie Roll brand. The candy maker further insists that the Footzyroll brand name constitutes “copying” and “counterfeiting” of the Tootsie Roll trademark.

In addition to asking that the Florida-based Rollashoe stop using the Footzyroll name for its shoes, Tootsie roll is also asking for undisclosed monetary damages from the startup company. Company officials at Tootsie Roll Industries were not immediately available for comment.

In response to Tootsie Roll’s complaint, Rollashoe owners, sisters Sarah and Jenifer Caplan, fired back, “This lawsuit is completely frivolous and has no merit. This is just another example of Tootsie Roll trying to bully a minority-owned women’s small business.” The sisters continued that the idea for Rollashoe Footzyrolls was sparked by Sarah, who had a fondness for wearing high-heel shoes but didn’t like the pain it caused her feet. “All through college I would carry a large bag with me with an extra pair of comfy shoes to change into when my feet started to burn at the end of each night,” said Sarah. “My friends would make fun of me all the time.”

Less than a year after its launch, Footzyrolls became a million-dollar brand featured in Oprah Winfrey’s monthly magazine. The shoes can be found in Bloomingdales and Fred Segal. This appears to us to be a very close case as to whether consumer confusion is likely because we could imagine consumers believing that there was some sponsorship or affiliation between the brands.

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