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You’ve probably never heard of David Klein. He’s the guy who invented the Jelly Belly. He came up with the idea in 1976 and lost the trademark before President Ronald Reagan made the candy popular.How everything went wrong is accounted in a great profile in the Los Angeles Times.
It all started when Klein was only 30, and working for candy distributor Garvey Nut in Temple City, Calif. He conceptualized the idea for a new kind of jellybean, and asked Bay Area manufacturer Herman Goelitz Candy Co. to create recipes and ship them. Klein decided on the name Jelly Belly after being inspired by the musician Lead Belly.
He sold the candy at a Fosselman’s Ice Cream store in a suburb of Los Angeles, and got lucky after the Associated Press ran a piece on the new Jelly Belly. Soon Klein was on talk shows and posing for People magazine.
But in 1980, Goelitz executives asked Klein and a Garvey Nut partner to relinquish the Jelly Belly trademark in exchange for $10,000 each every month for 20 years. He says it was one of the worst decisions he’s ever made.
The deal never made him rich, and today lives a modest life giving tours in a local candy factory. Goelitz changed its name to Jelly Belly Candy Co. and currently brings in around $193 million.
Though Jelly Belly Co. says that’s not the whole story. The company followed up with us today:
“In fact, when our executives made an attempt to purchase the trademark, Klein finally admitted, after many statements to the contrary, that he did not in fact own the rights to the Jelly Belly trademark and that he had allowed two others to trademark that name. Goelitz purchased the trademark from Garvey Nut and from Fosselman for the California rights. Goelitz made an offer for $20,000 a month for 20 years, and it was accepted and paid to Garvey Nut.”
Klein responded that his Garvey Nut partner owned the federal trademark with the understanding they would soon be equal partners, and Fosselman had purchased the California rights without Klein’s knowledge.
“Our trademark attorney told us not to apply for the California trademark and we listened to him,” he tells us.
With that now years behind him, Klein is aiming to make a second name for himself through gourmet chocolate, which he’ll call “David’s Signature Beyond Gourmet Jelly Beans.”
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