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What’s in a name? A lot, if it has ®

It was supposedly a lovely summer day in 1948 when Swiss inventor George de Mestral took his dog for a nature walk and returned home with burrs clinging to his pants and his pooch’s shaggy mane.

Being the inquisitive type, he put his burr-bearing pants under a microscope and saw sticker hooks snagging the tiny fabric loops of his trousers. Voilà, Mestral had discovered the magic fastening components of VELCRO®.

Yes, I capitalize and put the little registered trademark logo behind the word because I once wrote a column that noted a politician was “as nervous as a cat hanging by its claws from a velcro ceiling” and within three weeks, heard from the legal beagles at Velcro Industries.

I make this point because of a situation that recently occurred to the good folks at Sweet Earth Chocolates in San Luis Obispo, who received a similar letter from the lawyers at DeMet’s Candy Co.

You see, DeMet’s makes chocolate turtles or, as DeMet’s lawyers explain, TURTLES®. The problem, the lawyers pointed out, is that Tom and Eve Neuhaus and Joanne Currie’s Sweet Earth Chocolates include products called Ultimate Turtles, Vegan Turtles and Turtle Cups. Little did Tom, Eve and Joanne know that DeMet’s had registered the TURTLES® moniker off and on since 1946.

Toward that end, DeMet’s lawyers wrote in part: “We believe that your company’s use of the TURTLES trademark in connection with these products is likely to cause confusion, mistake, or deception with the TURTLES and Turtle Design trademarks owned by our client, thus damaging our client and the public.”

Fair enough as far as a heads-up on trademark infringement goes. But damaging DeMet’s? Methinks hyperbole is at play.

Consider: DeMet’s (formerly a subsidiary of Nestlé before being sold to Signature Snacks, which changed the name back to DeMet’s in 2007) is a multi-million dollar corporation. Sweet Earth Chocolates, on the other hand, is one small shop at 1445 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo.

As to “damaging the public,” ummm, I don’t think so. In fact, lessening damage to human beings is an abiding mainstay of Sweet Earth Chocolates.

Dr. Tom Neuhaus is not only a professor in Food Science and Nutrition at Cal Poly, his chocolates are all certified organic and Fair Trade, which means Sweet Earth’s organic chocolate beans are selected from Fair Trade certified co-ops in Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic. Profits from Sweet Earth go to dirt-poor cacao farmers in West Africa through Tom’s Project Hope and Fairness.

Yet, a dunning letter is a dunning letter. So Tom, Eve and Joanne reloaded on a name and came up with (ta-da!) SLOChews, which, when you think about it, sounds more pleasing to the palate than chewing on a carapaced reptile.

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