To The CBD Company That Won't Go Away
My first ever post was on July 21st, 2013. It was on a modestly set-up Tumblr page that was intentionally dressed down in an effort to look relaxing and simplistic. My plan, at the time, was fairly simple — do some writing, sparingly post graphics, and attempt to bond with anyone else who identified with the website’s namesake.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but six years ago on that day in July, Sunday Scaries was born. And now, six years later, it still remains. Hundreds of thousands of words written. Over a million podcast listens. Countless wicks trimmed.
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has put as much thought into the idea of “Sunday Scaries” as me. This is a statement of fact.
In 2013, I was in a much different state of my life compared to where I am now. I wasn’t unhappy, but I was certainly not content with my life as a whole. I had a lot of loose ends that needed tying, but I had no way to tie them. It’s the entire reason I started that Tumblr page in the first place. I wanted an outlet. I wanted to harness even just a tiny morsel of creativity. And despite my hesitation to admit it, I wanted that glimmer of hope that I could turn it into something larger.
And turn it into something larger I did. Yes, I’m unashamedly proud of it. I can’t deny that and, honestly, I don’t care if it rubs someone the wrong way that I reference it with bravado. When you feel personally fulfilled by something you created, you earn the right to feel that way.
Somewhere along the way, I set up Google Alerts for “Sunday Scaries” in addition to every other Google Alert I have flooding my inbox. It’s somewhat neurotic, but I enjoy knowing exactly when something relevant to my life pops up on the internet.
For months — years, even — it was the same shit on a different day. 47 Ways To Cure Your Sunday Scaries on Buzzfeed. The Sunday Scaries Are Real, And Here’s How To Cure Them on Huffington Post. What Are The Sunday Scaries And How You Can Avoid Them on literally every millennial blog trying to get pageviews. I can’t knock the strategy because, deep down, I’ve implemented it as well.
But then I saw it — “Sunday Scaries CBD Gummies.”
Truthfully, I wasn’t sure what CBD was at the time. Today, I’m still kind of fuzzy on the topic but that’s neither here nor there.
Naturally, I got defensive when I saw it for the first time. Another company using the same name as my already-established brand? Really?
Currently, Sunday Scaries is a full-blown CBD brand under the umbrella Top Quality Supplements LLC. They operate out of San Diego, California and currently own the ‘Sunday Scaries’ trademark as it pertains to “gummy vitamins; health food supplements; nutritional supplements in the form of gummies.”
As I began to look deeper, I found something that deeply aggravated me. Not only had they used the same name as me, but a strikingly similar logo as well. Here are both for comparison. The typeface nerd in me wants to say that they’re completely different, but you and I both know that one inspired the other.
I don’t remember my immediate reaction, but I can take a very educated guess as to how I felt at the time — letdown, angry, and downright bummed. I wanted to see the good in them and tell myself, “It’s okay, it’s probably just a coincidence,” but this is all just a little too coincidental.
I didn’t want to react immediately. After all, it appeared to be a fairly modest operation that posed no real threat at the time. So, I did what I always do online — I stalked them, I kept weekly tabs to see how they were doing, and I didn’t say anything until I absolutely had to.
On November 12, 2017 — yes, nearly four-and-a-half years after I created my original logo that I still use to this day — I reached out to them. For the sake of transparency, I’m going to include my exact email here:
As you may or may not know, my name is Will deFries and I've been operating a website called Sunday Scaries since 2014. While imitation is obviously the most sincere form of flattery, I noticed that your logo and company name are fairly close to mine which somewhat concerns me. I think your product is a great idea but, from a branding standpoint, it could easily create confusion with the brand that I've been running for almost four years. I'd love to come up with a way that we could amicably find a way to resolve this issue and would be open to hearing suggestions from you.
Looking back, I think it was a fair way to reach out. I didn’t want to accuse them of anything, but I also didn’t want to give them too much credit because they did, in fact, seemingly rip me off.
Two days later, I received an email from the co-owner of the company, Mike Sill. He simply said:
Thanks for reaching out. What exactly did you have in mind?
To which I responded:
There are several possibilities that could go anywhere from you licensing the name from me to changing your name/logo altogether. The party who is helping me secure the trademark for this has given me several options I could extend, but many require me knowing how badly you want to keep that name as it is.
The biggest concern I have on my end is the damage it will do to the SEO I've already gotten in place for this. Being that I've used this in several ways – content, commerce – since 2014, the value the name holds is important to me and is watered down if another party uses it.
I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.
This is when things went from amicable to downright angry. I knew I had to start taking this seriously which is why I had gotten a lawyer in the first place to help me secure my IP. Mainly, I wanted to protect my intellectual property by obtaining the trademark — something I should have done in 2013 when the phrase wasn’t nearly as widespread as it is today. Unfortunately, I was unable to do so for that very reason: it’s just too widespread at this point.
Fortunately for me, I didn’t realize I would get denied while having this correspondence with Sill. Had I known that I’d never get it, I likely would have been much more angry and included some sentiments that I’d regret.
But two hours after I sent that email, Sill responded.
We totally respect your site and opinion, but we have already filed our trademark for Sunday Scaries. We don't believe there is any confusion between our brands and that is why we filed. As our attorney informed us, customers won't be confused since you sell t-shirts and we sell gummies, your logo is blue while ours is black & yellow, and you sell in Chicago while we sell in San Diego. Some examples of this are Delta (for faucets and airlines) and Pioneer (for electronics and agricultural seeds).
That being said, we are all about finding a winning solution for both of us. We've noticed that you've stopped selling shirts on your website a long time ago. Maybe it would be in both of our best interests if you were to sell your website (and social tags) to us. Is there a price you had in mind? As one small business owner to another, please tell us a reasonable ask.
Laughable. That’s the only way I can describe my then-reaction and my now-reaction.
“We don't believe there is any confusion between our brands and that is why we filed.” They have the exact same name and nearly-identical logo. This would be like looking at The Olsen Twins and asking, “Think they’re related?”
“Customers won't be confused since you sell t-shirts and we sell gummies.” At the time, I didn’t realize how real this confusion would actually get. The emails from their customers thinking I’m a customer service representative because they stumbled upon my site instead of their site. The direct messages from my long-time readers and listeners asking, “Is this you?” The influencers getting paid by Sunday Scaries CBD Gummies who tag my Sunday Scaries account in their sponsored posts because even they can’t tell the difference. The targeted Instagram and Snapchat ads paid for by Sunday Scaries CBD Gummies that people screenshot and send to me using the simple caption, “Cease and desist.”
Not only is the confusion there, but it’s palpable enough to affect both parties whether they’re willing to admit it or not (hint: they’re not).
“As our attorney informed us, customers won't be confused since … your logo is blue while ours is black & yellow, and you sell in Chicago while we sell in San Diego.” And this is where you can’t help but sit back and laugh at everything that had to happen on their end in order for him to even type this sentence.
It’s truly amazing that in the very same email, he states that there won’t be confusion yet has gone to the lengths of talking to an attorney about the similarities of our brands. I may be an outlier here, but I probably wouldn’t talk to an attorney if I truly didn’t see an issue in front of me.
Furthermore, the logos are undeniably similar. Mike Sill may not have the graphic design prowess to see these similarities but the brush stroke, the thickness, and the kerning are all nearly identical. Sure, they italicized it, painted it black, and stacked the words, but even the untrained eye can see what’s right in front of them. Hell, I’d guess that the untrained eye sees more similarities than typeface enthusiasts do.
One characteristic of a good logo is that the logo can exist in several different forms — small or large, black or white, colorized or stamped. To say that our logos are vastly different because of color is like saying green peppers are different than yellow peppers because of the color. They still taste and look the exact fucking same.
As for the rest of the email, it’s pretty simple:
I’ve never lived in Chicago. I hate the Blackhawks.
Brands live on the internet. In 2019, the distance between San Diego and Chicago is the tap of a finger.
Your CBD gummies aren’t comparable to Delta. They’re the exact same CBD gummies that everyone else sells but with a catchy name and logo that looks blatantly like my logo. In fact, a $39 bottle of their 200 mg CBD gummies costs you about 20 cents per mg where a bottle from Earlybird CBD (900 mg for $54.99) costs about 6 cents per mg. Regarding the tinctures, you’re paying about 10 cents more per mg to Sunday Scaries CBD than you are if you bought a similar tincture form Earlybird.
And how do they justify those prices? Well, because they have a catchy brand name and marketing strategy.
The emails continued and grew slightly more tense. It got to the point where he offered me this: “We might consider paying you a commission of $3 per bottle sold at the current selling price of $34, for every customer coming from your website,” which I immediately declined.
Not only am I not in the business of doing marketing for someone else’s company, but someone would only make this offer if they knew that they were at least somewhat in the wrong. Had he been positive he did not wrong me, would he have offered me $3 per bottle?
So what now?
Well, I’ve lost steam.
I haven’t spoken publicly about this because, well, it’s aggravating and I haven’t wanted to give them the publicity. Now that it’s clear they aren’t going away, that whole publicity part doesn’t matter as much anymore.
Every week, I still receive messages from people pointing out that they the similarities of what I created in 2013. I hate receiving these messages not just because of everything I’ve already explained, but also because it’s a constant reminder that the internet is a fucked up place where people can use your ideas without any repercussions. Whether it’s The Fat Jewish or a CBD company trying to capitalize on the gold rush that is CBD, nothing is safe if you don’t have the time or money to protect yourself.
As for my brand, I’m pleased. I make an honest living off of it. It still creatively fulfills me week in and week out. I’ve maintained it for longer than most people maintain their passion projects. And despite the fact that I enjoy my life and line of work, I still have one dark cloud that hovers over my head on Sunday nights. I think you can guess what that is.
If you’re interested in trying CBD, head over to my friends at Earlybird CBD and use ‘SCARIES’ for 20% off. They didn’t pay me to write this or to include a link to their site in this column, but they’ve got a good thing going over there (and they came up with it all on their own).