Unilever takes on Planet Bennu in fight for 'sicle' name
On planet Bennu there are no bullies.
Unfortunately, here on Earth, vernacular like Kleenex, scotch tape, popsicles, Xerox and Mickey Mouse are owned by corporations that have no problem protecting the words they invented.
And that’s why Starcicles owners Rain Shields and Daniel Carlson are down to their last dime. They have already spent most of their profits preparing for a fight with the Unilever Corporation, both in the US and Canada, for the right to call their frozen juice on a stick Starcicles.
The frozen treats are sold at markets, festivals and parties in the Okanagan and Kootenays.
According to Shields, Unilever’s lawyers have told them that they will be sued for trademark infringement if they use the name Starcicle.
“This is excessive!” says Shields, who is formerly of Nelson.
“They are bullying the crap out of me!”
Unilever, however, says bullying has nothing to do with it.
“Unilever owns the trademark for POPSICLE and SICLE for use in frozen treats in both the United States and Canada,” Unilever Canada’s communication manager Katharine Williams responded in an email to The Nelson Daily.
“We respect Ms. Shields’ business, her creativity and her entrepreneurship. However, as the owner of the SICLE trademark, we need to protect our intellectual property.”
Williams says Unilever has been using “popsicle” and “sicle” since 1923 and has invested in the trademark for many years.
“The issue is one of respecting property rights,” says Williams. “A business of any size – large or small – looking to use the SICLE mark would be challenged”
But on Planet Bennu, where “cold darkness melts in the warmth of love,” the national frozen treats are Starcicles, “little bits of icy stardust on a stick.”
“We are a bully intolerant people,” says Shields, who along with her partner developed the concept of Planet Bennu as an inspirational metaphor for those who have visible and invisible disabilities.
Through song, art and humour, the website conveys a message of hope and activism.
Now four years into her Starcicle operation, Shields does not want to back down on the frozen treat name or her dream of a place where “we can all share the shine.”
“At this point, we are still prepared to fight Unilever,” says Shields. She is hoping others will join her.
Starcicles are but one part of the plan to “join the mauve-ment” to wear mauve signifying support for the disabled, build a non-profit organization to support humanitarian efforts and stand up and be counted.
Planet Bennu, so named after an Egyptian myth that was the predecessor of Phoenix rising from the ashes, is fundraising for the trademark challenge.
Starcicles are not the first “cicle” to be opposed recently by Uniliver. According to the Law360 website, two companies were opposed last year for beercicles, teacicles and sodacicles.
It’s not apparent what happened to those cicles.
The question now is whether Unilever’s trademark protection will be valid across the universe on Planet Bennu.