Many will fondly recall the glass-topped Mold-A-Rama machines found at museums, zoos and arcades. These machines inject melted plastic into two molds, which are then combined to create dolphins, dinosaurs and other toys while young customers eagerly watch. The family-owned Mold-A-Rama, based in Illinois, has now filed a trademark infringement suit against an Atlanta-based collector who refitted old machines with modern technology while using the Mold-A-Rama name.
The company filed suit in Chicago after the modernized versions appeared at a trade show. According to local reports, the suit alleges that the collector “materially altered” the machines and is causing confusion for the consumer and potential liability exposure for the original owner. Mold-A-Rama is also simply unhappy with the result of the modification, calling it a “bastardization.”
A little history
These machines were originally designed and built by Aramark. In 1971, they were discontinued and sold to a business that would become Mold-A-Rama. Starting with a dozen machines placed around the Midwest, Mold-A-Rama has grown to include 60 machines. These are painstakingly maintained by the owner, who acquired the abandoned trademark in 2007 and renamed the company in 2011.
Company refuses to recognize the Mold-A-Rama trademark
According to the plaintiffs, Mold-A-Rama filed suit after the collector and a Canadian company that handles the marketing of the rehabbed machines refused to acknowledge the company’s cease and desist order notifying them of the infringement. While the defendants claim to rehab the machines out of personal dedication, their asking price per rehabbed machine is $27,000 to $30,000.
There were hundreds of machines originally manufactured and sold to Aramark employees and franchisees before selling the subsidiary. There is also the family-owned Unique Souvenirs, based out of Florida, that has around 60 machines under the name Mold-A-Matic. Mold-A-Rama and Mold-A-Matic have an agreement involving each party’s business territory.Protecting the original vision
Mold-A-Rama has taken exception to the defendants’ choice to update the mechanics, proudly stating that they use original parts (or parts created to original specs) whenever possible. The only real updates to plaintiffs’ machines are the cost of the toy and that the machines now accept credit cards.
Trademark protection is often necessary for the ongoing profitability and reputation of a business. However, it can also be about protecting, and even nurturing, the original vision of a creator or business owner. And as this suit contends, potential liability concerns may also arise. A knowledgeable intellectual property attorney can address any or all of these concerns for trademark owners protecting their interests.