Chicago-Based Tootsie Roll Sues Footwear Maker Footzyrolls For Trademark Infringement

The Miami-based small business Rollashoe was hit with a lawsuit recently by Chicago-based candy maker Tootsie Roll, alleging that its Footzyroll ballet shoes infringed on the candy company's trademark, CNNMoney reports.

Chicago small business can be difficult because larger companies are trying to always dominate the market. Sometimes, it takes clever names, along with ground-breaking products to find a niche in the ever-competitive field they are in.

But large corporations will try to pummel any small business that is making a mark and can be seen as a threat. This can lead to lawsuits that attempt to intimidate and weaken a business owner who is simply trying to compete.

But a Chicago small business lawyer can be utilized for many functions aside from defending lawsuits. Whether hiring employees and requiring non-compete clauses to be written into contracts, or setting up contracts with other businesses for distribution or marketing of products, an attorney is helpful in making sure all your bases are covered.

According to CNNMoney, this lawsuit stems from a new line of ballet slippers that are so flexible and small they can be tied up with a string and carried in a canister. In a recently filed lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, Tootsie Roll claims that consumers could get confused and assume that the shoe is a part of the candy company's brand.

Tootsie Roll made $521 million in sales last year, compared to Footzyrolls' $2 million in sales in 2010. The Chicago candy maker claims the footwear will dilute or tarnish the value of the Tootsie Roll brand and that the actions are "willful, malicious and fraudulent."

The owners of the shoe company -- 28- and 34-year-old sisters -- say the lawsuit is without merit and will threaten their company. They have spent thousands in legal fees fighting with Tootsie Roll, which opposed the trademark application the shoe company made. It was later featured in Oprah's magazine and has gotten sizable contracts from that exposure.

They are concerned that the lawsuit could cripple their business, which could top $3 million in sales, but has been hampered by the candy maker's actions.

Sadly, business is cut-throat and lawsuits like these happen every day. Big businesses, even candy companies that claim shoe companies could confuse consumers, like to flex their muscle. They know that small businesses don't have the legal budget that they do.

But an experienced Chicago small business attorney can help. Being able to attack the lack of merit of the lawsuit is a way to start. Showing that the products are so different they couldn't confuse the average consumer is another aspect.

Big businesses don't simply use lawsuits to attack competitors, though. They try to hire away their employees, make deals with other businesses to run them out of a specific geographical area or niche product area. These are all areas that can be addressed with a lawyer who can help write solid contracts.

Jeremy A. Gibson & Associates is a law firm dedicated to business litigation in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois. Call 877-452-4529 for a free consultation.

Additional Resources:

Tootsie Roll to Foozyrolls: See ya in court!, by Parjia Kavilanz, CNNMoney