Larry Hogan, Old Bay, Hershey’s, and trademark law


One quick note on that awful email the Hogan campaign sent over the weekend…

While I’ve had nationally prominent online strategists email me to talk about how ugly that Hogan campaign message was, the Hogan campaign is apparently happy with it. They are claiming it has raised more money than any other email for them so far (how many is that and how badly executed were previous ones?) Of course, this is likely spin as is their assertion that they are out-raising everyone else right now since we can’t know that for sure until the next round of finance reports are due. Assume for a moment they did raise more from this email than they did the others and they really are outraising the other candidates. Even in that situation, my criticism of the previous email stands. Fundraising isn’t about the horse race. It’s about maxmimizing your contributions from every message. Had the email actually not looked like crap and been optimized by someone who actually knows what they are doing their fundraising totals could have been a lot higher. In other words, they left money on the table.

Why am I bringing this up now under a picture of an Old Bay can?

Here’s that ugly email again:


I’ve been told that the above email is supposed to be evocative of an Old Bay can although there’s no red at the top and the red they did use was not done intelligently. Maybe they should have embedded some designed graphics to actually make it look like an Old Bay can. Had they actually mentioned the event using similar graphics (I discuss it below ) it may have worked out better for them. (Be sure to read my full critique if you haven’t already.)

The email was trying to emulate the Old Bay logo because of the event graphics the campaign is using to promoting their Taste of Maryland fundraiser on March 5 in Baltimore at the Museum of Industry:


There’s a big difference between that email and the above graphic, which actually does resemble an Old Bay can. That brings me to my next point.

Old Bay (which is owned by McCormick & Company) has numerous trademarks filed in the USPTO database. Many of them include specimens (pictures) that show Old Bay cans. Obviously, I am not a lawyer and patent and trademark law are very specialized fields. Monday, I contacted corporate communications at McCormick & Company and asked for their comment on the matter of the Hogan event graphics and their similarity to Old Bay trade dress. As of this writing I have yet to receive a response.

The following comment was left on the Change Maryland Facebook page when the event graphic was originally posted:



The above comment would seem to show that the common person sees the similarity in the graphics and would possibly be confused.

I will follow up on this later when I hear from McCormick or anyone else with more information.

My thoughts turned to another politician on a related matter when I heard that Wendy Hershey is working in communications for the Hogan campaign. Hershey’s husband, Senator Steve Hershey, has used trade dress similar to that of The Hershey Company before. When I first saw a Hershey graphic last year (shortly after he was appointed to the Senate by Governor Martin O’Malley), I did some asking around and one source close to the Hershey campaign told me at the time that Hershey had permission to use the version of the graphic he was using. (All of the Hershey campaign materials referenced can be found at the bottom of this post.)

Jeff Beckman, the head of corporate communications at The Hershey Company, told me that Steve Hershey does not have permission to do what he is doing.

In fact, Beckman told me the following:

The ‘Hershey” image that State Senator Steve Hershey used for his December 30, 2013, event and other “Hershey” images he has used in the past are confusingly similar to our Hershey’s brand trade dress.  We have let him know that we object to these inappropriate uses of our trade dress and will take action if it continues in the future.

Wendy Hershey, who is campaign treasurer of her husband’s campaign, appears to be the common denominator between the Hogan campaign and Hershey campaign in this matter. I can’t imagine McCormick’s reaction being that much different than Hershey’s except for the fact that the Hogan usage is for a one-time event,  but that is getting into the legal nuances of whether the color scheme of the can itself can be trademarked and whether it has been, among other issues.

Thanks to the Hogan campaign spin on why the color scheme was so ugly in the email over the weekend, I was able to delve into all the above issues after becoming curious and checking things out.

Here’s the Steve Hershey campaign flier from December 2013 that referenced above:



Here is an example from a Hershey for Delegate campaign before he became a Senator:


Another example:


Jeff Quinton

Jeff Quinton

Jeff Quinton is an award-winning blogger who has been aggregating and blogging since 1998. He has worked as a reporter, in government, and as a communications professional in Columbia, SC and Washington, DC.

Quinton is a native South Carolinian who has lived in Baltimore since 2006. He is a recent convert to the Catholic Church and is active in the Knights of Columbus. He has been involved in the pro-life movement nationally and locally since 2010.

Quinton is a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the Army National Guard. He is also an Eagle Scout.
Jeff Quinton