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Local businessman faces suit over rehabbed vending machines

Many remember the glass-topped Mold-A-Rama vending machines at zoos, arcades and museums. Young customers can drop coins into the slot and watch the plastic mold injection machine create dolphins, dinosaurs or tractor figurines in under a minute. Hundreds of machines were built in the 1960s under the ownership of the Aramark, which eventually sold the company in 1971.

Many of these machines fell into disrepair and collected dust in antique stores, but small family-owned businesses Mold-A-Rama in Illinois and Mold-A-Matic owned by Unique Souvenirs of Florida continue to operate and maintain these machines. A collector named Bruce Weiner, who is based here in Georgia, decided to purchase 20 of the original machines and modernize the inner mechanism while keeping the original Mold-A-Rama name.

Trademark infringement?

The local businessman now stands accused of a trademark infringement by Mold-A-Rama, which purchased the abandoned trademark in 2007 and changed the name of its business to Mold-A-Rama in 2011. The Illinois company claims the Georgia company created a “bastardization” of the original – Weiner’s promotional materials claimed that it installed a Toyota engine into a Mercedes body.

According to news reports the major issues listed in the suite are:

  • Weiner put modern technology in the original machines
  • The use of the Mold-A-Rama name
  • Potential lawsuit protection if Weiner’s machines malfunction

The cost of the rehabbed Mold-A-Ramas is $27,000 to $30,000, which Weiner claims simply covers the expense of the parts and labor. Both Weiner and Canada-based Collector Concierge International (CCI), which handled the marketing of the rehabbed machines, are listed in the suit.

A resolution to the issue?

It is true that Weiner and CCI rehabbed and are reselling the machines with the Mold-A-Rama name even after a cease and desist order from Mold-A-Rama last November. While there are two sides to every story, this appears to be basic trademark infringement that could have been avoided if Weiner and CCI sought guidance from a knowledgeable intellectual property attorney ahead of time. As the Illinois company has come to an agreement with Mold-A-Matic, there may still be room to negotiate a fair and equitable agreement before the expense of an ensuing court case.

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