Mars—maker of M&Ms, Snickers, Twix, and many more sugary delights—is all about fun.
Mars was the first company to have the fun idea of calling smaller candy bars “fun size” candy bars. Mars cares so much about fun, in fact, that it once sued a rival candy company for using the “fun size” term, then purchased the trademark to the word “fun” to ensure that no other candy company could attempt to market anything as “fun” without Mars’s permission ever again.
The battle for “fun size” candy may be but a small footnote in US legal history, but its impact on Halloween candy wrappers lives on, as Ernie Smith detailed in a recent post on the site Tedium.
Mars did not invent the tiny candy bar. A rival confectioner, the Curtiss Candy Company, started marketing teeny versions of its Baby Ruth and Butterfinger candies as “junior” size in the 1930s.
As Smith recounts, Mars swiped the idea in the early 1960s and also started selling mini-sized candy bars under the name “junior.” The company soon discontinued the junior line and introduced in 1968 a slightly larger (but still smaller than usual) version of the bars that it called “fun size.”
People liked fun size bars, especially around Halloween, and in 1971 Curtiss rebranded its mini-candies as “fun size” too. Mars was not as accommodating to a rival borrowing its marketing idea as Curtiss had been years before, and sued Curtiss over the term.
Mars lost. Lawyers for Curtiss pointed out that Mars did not have a monopoly on “fun,” at least as it applied to candy—another confectioner had actually trademarked the word in 1926. Undaunted, the ferociously competitive Mars tracked down that company and bought the trademark for “fun” from them, then challenged Curtiss again.
Mars’s efforts to control “fun” were ultimately unsuccessful. Though Mars still owns the trademark to the term ”fun size,” it lost the battle to prevent other companies from using it. The company did, however, let its trademark on “fun” expire in 1998. Candy can now be “fun” without Mars’s express authorization.