May 22, 2018

"Slabgate" escalates but proceedings may be some way off

In an intellectual property rights battle playing out on social media, Hotel Chocolat has accused Waitrose of infringing its IP rights by selling a new range of chocolates.

Angus Thirlwell (a co-founder of the boutique British chocolatier) has claimed that the supermarket's new line of chocolate slabs infringes on Hotel Chocolat's registered designs. He said on Twitter (using the hashtag #slabgate) that a customer had sent him a copy of the newspaper advertisement containing the allegedly infringing sandwiches.

Hotel Chocolat have published a statement containing the Guardian's original article: it can be found here.

Waitrose have issued a statement of their own to the World Intellectual Property Review stating that they are "confident that [they] have not infringed any of Hotel Chocolat's designs" and "refute all of the allegations".

They did, however, confirm that in the interests of avoiding a lengthy legal battle, they were in formal communications with Hotel Chocolat outside of the social media exchanges in an attempt to resolve the issue.

In an unusual twist on IP litigation tactics, Hotel Chocolat are offering a free slab to any customer bringing in an uneaten Waitrose slab. While this tactic may be unique, using litigation to score PR points is not: earlier this year BrewDog offered free "Elvis Juice" beer to those dressed (?) as the King of Rock and Roll to celebrate their court victory.

The parties may well follow the path blazed by Poundland and Mondel­ēz in which the discount retailer was allowed to sell off existing infringing imitation Toblerone bars before redesigning them altogether.

Posted by: in: Designs, News

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