While I am pretty confident that Ritter Sport is not high on the list of chocolates that many ChocolateLife members eat on a regular basis, it turns out that recent legal actions being brought by the multinational company - and not against chocolate makers but against retailers - could have a profound affect on how chocolate is produced and marketed in Europe and beyond.
You see, Ritter appears to think it has a trademark on the square.
At least when it comes to chocolate packaging.
And they appear to believe that people walking into a store will be confused when they see brands as Akesson, Domori, and more, in square boxes.
I am fairly confident that anyone looking to buy Domori is not going to be confused into buying Ritter just because the bars are the same shape - just as I am confident that someone looking to purchase a Ritter Sport bar is not likely to be confused into buying Akesson - especially when they see the price difference.
Things might be different if Ritter were actually going after the chocolate makers. But they're not. They're going after retailers. In addition to fines (reportedly US$6,000 for a first "offense" and US$30,000 for repeat "offenders") there is also the theoretical possibility that Ritter could refuses to supply "repeat offender" retailers with Ritter product going forward.
Is it possible to trademark a shape as common as a square? Also, if my memory serves me correctly, all Ritter Sport bars are flow wrapped and I know Akesson and Domori come in boxes.
Will people really be confused?
While Ritter have claimed they are only interested in asserting their rights over their packaging in Germany they do sell worldwide so there is always the possibility that they could go after American companies (notably Tcho) for the same reason.
Bertil Akesson tells me that he and Domori (which is owned by Illy, a fairly large company) are working together to fight these cases.
How can you help? You can start by taking a poll that I've added to the Facebook page for TheChocolateLife .
You can vote directly by clicking on one of the radio buttons, but you can also leave a comment (and vote) by clicking on the title of the poll or by clicking here . (You have to be a Facebook member to vote.) And - while you're at it, why don't you "like" TheChocolateLife and add it to your Favorite pages?
We will keep you posted here of any updates as they are revealed to me.
Also, I am looking for someone fluent in German who is interested in doing some translation work. I don't know the exact language of the papers being served to the retailers and it's not possible to rely on machine translation for the nuances of such.
clay - http://www.thechocolatelife.com/clay/
updated by @clay: 04/12/15 07:49:54PM