Natural Foods Merchandiser

BeeCeuticals stung when "Bee Movie" uses slogan

Jerry Seinfeld's made promotional appearances for his "Bee Movie" dressed in a giant bee suit. The day before the film opened, he was stung with a different kind of suit — one without antennae.

Richie Gerber, co-owner of BeeCeuticals LLC, filed a trademark infringement suit against Paramount Pictures Corp. and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., over use of the slogan, "Give Bees a Chance," which the skincare company trademarked in 2006.

The movie is about bees who sue humanity for stealing their honey.

"It's ironic, so ironic," says Gerber. "It's like art imitating life."

"We're friendly bees. We're not killer bees," says Gerber, who owns the Florida-based company with his wife Julie. The couple has been in the health and wellness industry for 30 years. "But if there's a threat to our hive, our property — watch out. And this is our intellectual property. We must defend it. Or lose it. I mean, you can't start a copy machine company and call it Xerox. You can't start a magazine and call it 'Natural Foods Shmerchandiser.'"

BeeCeuticals representatives met with Hollywood last spring, hoping to join forces to promote National Pollination Week in June and educate people about global threats to bees. "We also wanted to work with them on our Trees for Bees program that's working to plant one million pollinator-friendly trees," says Gerber. "We wanted to give them some good ideas," he says.

The BeeCeuticals press release announcing the company's "Bee-In" for National Pollination Week was headlined "Give Bees a Chance." The line has appeared on their products for years, and has been used to promote the company hundreds of times on Howard Stern's radio show. Gerber and Stern are cousins.

Shortly after the Hollywood meeting the slogan appeared in movie advertisements, according to the suit. Dreamworks did not respond to a request for comment.

BeeCeuticals sent a cease-and-desist letter on Oct. 24. It filed the trademark infringement suit Nov. 1.

"Yeah, it's funny," says Gerber, "but it's also serious — dilution of a trademark. And these days, in our industry, matters of authenticity are really coming into play. I'm just protecting my little corner of the world."

Will Gerber see "Bee Movie?" "Absolutely!" he says, "I will not miss this movie for the world. The reason? They had very effective advertising! I wasn't sure if I was going to see it but when I saw the ad with "Give bees a chance," I thought, 'Boy, these guys are funny!' What a great line!"

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