UK based Hotel Chocolat has taken aim at supermarket Waitrose for infringing their IP rights in respect of a new line of chocolate bar products.
The claim started in Twitter, when Angus Thirlwell, who is the co-founder of Hotel Chocolat, made the comparison between the two brands products and called out Waitrose for infringing their registered design protection.
You can see a like for like comparison here: http://www.hotelchocolat.com/uk/slabgate.html referenced by the hashtag in question #slabgate.
You will see from the side by side that both products are chocolate slab bars with ingredients added to the surface to create a flavour. The ingredients added by Waitrose are suspiciously in very similar placement and identical names to the Hotel Chocolat originals.
It has been reported that Hotel Chocolat have taken formal action and sent a cease and desist letter to Waitrose to remove the products immediately. A spokesperson for them somewhat confirmed this by saying they were in talks with Waitrose. The spokesperson added fuel to the rumours by highlighting Â 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.
Waitrose have released a statement which states that
ÂWe are confident that we have not infringed any of Hotel ChocolatÂs 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.Â
It will be interesting to see if this is dealt with behind closed doors or will all the bars be laid bare in a public legal dispute.
Time will tell.