Intellectual Property Issues

Posted 28th August 2018 by Dave Cross
A row is brewing over the use of the terms “Millions”, “VG” and the use of a confectionery company’s intellectual property (IP). It follows on the heels of IVG[tm] Liquids, the eliquid company concerned, issuing ‘cease and desist’ letters to other people over abuse of its own trademarks.

Phil Busardo, a vape Youtuber, attacked Cloud Candy in 2015. Irate at the marketing of liquids that could be seen as using child sweet products or cartoons, he said: “The time to change isn’t ‘when the rules come out’, the time to change is NOW!”

Since then the vape market has witnessed a boom in confectionary-styled liquids, and the flagrant theft of intellectual property. Such juice makers have been berated by tobacco control experts for ‘marketing to kids’ and by sections of the vape community for giving those experts the ammunition to attack the industry.

Knowsley Council’s Trading Standards removed bottles of eliquid from stores across Huyton, Kirkby and Prescot that ripped off the branding from Pokémon, Gummy Bears, Krispy Kreme donuts and the Simpsons, in 2016.

Last year, the The WM Wrigley Jr Company went after Chi-Town Vapers, then Vapefab, for stealing its intellectual property: “Rather than develop their own brand names for their products, defendants have chosen to market their e-liquid for electronic cigarettes using the trademarks of various other well-known companies, including Wrigley’s brand names, without authorization or license.”

If people thought they weren’t serious, Wrigley went on to crush Get Wrecked Juices earlier this year. At the time, Wrigley spokeswoman Caitlin Kemper said: “The use of popular candy brands in the marketing, sales and promotion of e-cigarettes is deceptive and irresponsible. We strongly condemn these actions, which are directly at odds with our anti-tobacco policy and our strict marketing standards.”

Now a new case has come to the attention of the Facebook community.

IVG[tm] Liquids had just announced that it produced a turnover in excess of £15 million in the last trading year. The company’s CEO Ahsan Bawa announced a global expansion plan, and said: “It’s been an amazing journey for all of us here at IVG however, I strongly believe this is just a start for us. We are excited and determined to take this well-established company to another level.”

Bawa claims the company now employs over 110 people and is planning on expanding bases to Las Vegas and Hong Kong. What he hasn’t factored in was the Golden Casket Group getting upset about the appropriation of its Millions confectionary brand.

“‼ Important Announcement ‼ Dear Millions Fans,” wrote the company on Facebook. “We are aware of some ‘millions’ branded vape and e-cig products in the market place. We do not endorse these products and they have been released into the market without our knowledge or consent. We are working behind the scenes to get our millions brand removed from all vaping products. We thank all Millions Fans for sharing their concerns.”

IVG[tm] responded: “Dear millions sweets!! Our brand of millions & Bubblegum Millions registered and branded in a completely different category and have not infringed any of your millions copyright rights in your category.

You will note that our legal team advised your legal accordingly some months ago thereafter our trademark was registered in a different category,” the social media writer continued.

It is true in this respect; IVG[tm] has registered trademarks for its company name, ‘Millions as a juice name and, perplexingly, the use of the term ‘VG’ – the common reference for vegetable glycerol by the entire vape community.

Following those registrations, IVG[tm] has been issuing its own ‘cease and desist’ letters. On one occasion to the wrong person, after which the company apologised but then contacted the police because they wanted a Facebook post removed.

IVG[tm]’s reply continued: However we are a reputable company and are willing to alleviate any concerns you may have. Please ask your legal team to liaise with ours and hopefully we can resolve any of your concerns. IVG Team”

Later, the company posted a veiled threat: “It will be resolved very shortly in fair and legal way with every one who ever cooperates with us.”

Predictably, social media erupted over the weekend with many vapers condemning IVG[tm] for double standards and for deleting criticism from its page.

Victor Mullin, online reviewer, wrote: “Ohhhhhh dear IVG Premium E Liquids yes, you may be able to delete my comments, and you may have blocked me from commenting on your page. However this weekend when the Watts UP vlog goes out I will be shredding your company apart...have fun with fake announcements until then...”

Facebook user Max Caley wrote: “Many, many times IP owners have shut down TM use in other categories. That's why no one can sell Coke branded stuff in any category. You used photographs of their actual product in your marketing. No way you can claim its not associated.”

John Dunne, Director and spokesperson for the UK Vape Industry Association, commented: “I see the brand mimicking issue continues to gather steam. Unfortunately issues like this do not portray the industry in very good light and provide valuable ammunition for the ‘You are marketing you products to kids’ brigade. Only playing with fire.”

Planet of the Vapes hopes that this issue is resolved swiftly with minimal damage to the integrity of the wider vape community. At the time of writing, IVG[tm] still have images on their website and social media feeds featuring Golden Casket's Millions sweet products.

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker