News | Tis The Season For Lawsuits

Swedish Match is a Swedish company based in Stockholm that makes snus, moist snuff, and chewing tobacco, the company also makes machine-made cigars, matches and lighters.

Swedish Match operates out of nine countries, and the products are sold in more than 100 countries worldwide. Swedish Match is publicly owned, shares have been listed at NASDAQ and they own and operate General Cigar, with cigar brands including Macanudo, Gloria Cubana, Cohiba, Punch, Garcia Vega, White Owl among many others and partners with ST Group of Scandinavian Tobacco and owners of Cigars International. They are a monster.

Small New England based Hammer + Sickle Cigars who has been in the cigar industry for just 5 years have recently struck it rich with a 93 ratings in Cigar Aficionado Magazine, Cigar of the Year from The Cigar Authority and continuing growth and success in the U.S. market.

Known as a boutique manufacturer, this small newcomer Hammer + Sickle is playing with the big boys now, and the big boys are about to step on them. Their mildest and smoothest line called Hammer + Sickle ICON which has been inching up as their best seller, has now got the attention of Swedish Match. With an arsenal of brands and size names, it seems ICON was used on a lost (but apparently not forgotten by them) line called BAHIA. This nowhere to be found brand had at one time had a front mark using the ICON name back in the mid to late 90’s. But with the popularity of Hammer + Sickle, this was enough to resurrect it from the dead. Mind you, there are no cigars to be found but a lawsuit was filed and the word ICON must be removed or hundreds of thousands of dollars would need to be spent to keep it.

As we approach the IPCPR in July, I watch for more lawsuits stopping the small guys in their tracks because this is exactly how the big boys play. Don’t get me wrong, a trademark is a trademark and one must protect it, but after a little research, I noticed that the trademark was filed just 1 year ago, which is 2 years AFTER Hammer + Sickle came out with theirs, and the trademark is “Bahia Icon” which could never be confused with Hammer + Sickle ICON. I think Hammer + Sickle would win this one, but do they have a few hundred thousand to find out? The answer is no, because even if they win, they lose.

If the small guy gains any momentum in the tobacco industry, the easiest way to stop you is in the courts. Win or lose, you can’t afford to keep the lights on because the lawyers get the money. The big guys can handle it, but the little guy has to back off.

It’s lawsuit season again.