22 May 2018

Hotel Chocolat and Waitrose locked in #slabgate dispute

UK chocolatier Hotel Chocolat has accused supermarket Waitrose of “crossing the line” and breaching its IP rights with a new line of chocolate products.

Hotel Chocolat co-founder Angus Thirlwell initially claimed on Twitter that Waitrose’s new line infringed the company’s registered design rights after someone sent him a picture of an advertisement for the chocolates in a newspaper.

He has since been tweeting about the allegations under the hashtag #slabgate.

You can see a like-for-like comparison of the bars here.

On Friday, May 18, The Guardian reported that Hotel Chocolat had instructed lawyers to write to Waitrose demanding that it remove the bars from sale by the end of that day and destroy them.

WIPR has been in touch with a Hotel Chocolat spokesperson today, May 22, who confirmed that “we are currently speaking to Waitrose” but that there is no further update.

The spokesperson added that customers who have bought a bar from Waitrose can receive a free Hotel Chocolat slab if they return an uneaten or unfinished Waitrose bar to the chocolatier.

A spokesperson for Waitrose told WIPR that “we are confident that we have not infringed any of Hotel Chocolat’s designs and we refute all of the allegations made by Mr Thirlwell and Hotel Chocolat”.

“However it is not in our interest to enter into a protracted legal dispute with Hotel Chocolat and so we are corresponding with them directly about these issues,” they added.

This is not the first time a chocolate producer and a retailer have gone to war over a chocolate bar.

In October 2017, WIPR reported that discount retailer Poundland decided to redesign a chocolate bar that was contested by Mondelēz International for being too similar to its famous Toblerone product.

Tom Collins, associate at Stevens & Bolton, said that in the latest case much will turn on how far Waitrose is prepared to defend the allegations.

"At the end of last year, the settlement reached between Poundland and Mondelēz over the imitation Toblerone bars allowed Poundland to sell off existing stock after agreeing to redesign, so we may see a similar deal struck over the coming months.”

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17 August 2017   UK retailer Poundland has gone to war against Mondelēz International over the sale of a Toblerone chocolate bar lookalike.
25 October 2017   Discount retailer Poundland will have to redesign a chocolate bar that was contested by Mondelēz International for being too similar to its famous Toblerone product.
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