USO not sweet on NECCO

By DONNA GOODISON | Boston Herald | Published: July 26, 2013

BOSTON — A Revere, Mass. candy maker’s 2009 “salute to the troops” partnership with the USO has turned sour.

The nonprofit United Service Organizations Inc., which supports American troops and their families, is suing New England Confectionery Co. for alleged trademark infringement and false advertising.

NECCO continued to market its “Red, White & You Sweethearts” candies featuring sentiments such as “Proud of U,” “USO” and “Home Safe” long after its sponsorship deal with the USO ended — and without compensating the USO, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Boston.

The USO yesterday declined comment on the ongoing litigation and ?NECCO did not return calls from the Herald.

Under a one-year agreement in 2009, the USO signed NECCO as exclusive confections sponsor of its Operation USO Care Package program for May through September of that year. The deal allowed NECCO to use the USO trademarks and logo to market its specially themed red, white and blue Sweethearts in return for a $75,000 donation. The Sweethearts were included in USO care packages sent to American military troops, and NECCO sold them online and in stores in packaging that promoted the program.

But NECCO continued to sell the USO-branded candies and tout a USO partnership from May 2010 through February 2011, even though both sides failed to negotiate a new contract for that period, according to court documents.

“…Without the consent or authorization of USO, NECCO unilaterally produced and packaged candy displaying USO trademarks and logos, and commenced a marketing campaign using USO’s trademarks and logos for candies identified as “Red White & You Sweethearts,” court documents state.

And despite repeated demands from the USO, NECCO “failed and refused to pay” the additional $75,000 donation referenced in its marketing campaign and product packaging, the court documents allege.