Maker of ice cream flavor Chunkey Monkey, Ben & Jerry’s (a division of Unilever) is facing another lawsuit regarding its use of flavor name Chunkey Monkey. Daughter of the designer of the “Chunky Monkey” cartoon character (of which I’ve never been aware), Pauline Comanor, has sued Ben & Jerry’s claiming the ice cream maker violated legal agreements with artist Pauline Comanor by using Chunky Monkey to promote lip balm and by printing a misleading story on packaging about the character’s origin. Comanor died in 2005.
Apparently, the agreements outlined permissible uses of the character, the daughter said. Ben & Jerry’s paid Comanor at least $80,000 to settle earlier trademark disputes, according to the agreements. Chunky Monkey is the third-most-popular flavor of Ben & Jerry’s, a unit of Unilever NV. The article, however, suggests that Ben & Jerry’s began using the flavor name before any agreements with Comanor were signed:
In 1988, Ben & Jerry’s began using Chunky Monkey as a trademark and a flavor with bananas, walnuts and fudge chunks, according to the complaint. Two years later, the company reached an agreement with Comanor over its use of the design, acknowledging her as the creator and paying her $30,000.
If that is the case, Comanor’s daughter’s claims concerning “packaging that includes a story describing two campers’ claim they devised the name “Chunky Monkey” seems specious. While the agreements with Comanor may give Ben & Jerry’s the right to use the name Chunkey Monkey, it is still entirely plausable that the story about “a fan wrote us about her summer camp job encounter with a mischievous campers who presented her a goofy food-mash they called ‘Chunky Monkey.’” Even if it story is a fabricated marketing ploy – as so many are – so what. The ice cream story has nothing to do with the cartoon or the plush animals. If Ben & Jerry’s were fabricating a story about the plush animals, perhaps there would be a law suit. However, Ben & Jerry’s is describing its own product – not Comanor’s cartoon or its plush toys … unless, of course, the agreement states something to the contrary.
Concerning the lip balm, I have insufficient information to form a belief as the the merits of that claim.
It seems to me, however, that Comanor’s daughter is looking to milk this for everything it’s worth.