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Toblerone and Poundland in messy trademark battle

5th September 2017

Two Toblerone bars

The makers of the iconic Toblerone bar and Poundland have become embroiled in a battle over the former’s trademark rights, following the budget high street chain’s attempts to create a ‘copycat’ product.

Poundland had intended to launch its own-branded ‘Twin Peaks’ bar for sale in July but was forced to delay making it available for sale after Mondelez, the owners of Toblerone, intervened, saying that the new product was “deceptively and confusingly similar” to its own.

Despite Toblerone selling in large quantities in Poundland stores (around 11 million in 2016), the chain decided to create a similar product after the iconic chocolate bar changed its shape towards the end of last year.

Poundland’s argument is that – by changing the shape of the bar – Toblerone’s manufacturers have effectively abandoned the exclusive trademark of the prism design which they secured in 1997.

Toblerone has ‘irretrievably abandoned’ trademark rights

Toblerone faced criticism from consumers last year when it was decided to space out the gaps between the bar’s distinctive ‘peaks’ in order to reduce its weight and therefore “keep the product affordable for our customers”.

Poundland were quick to try and take advantage of this development, asking their suppliers to create a similar bar “in response to the unfavourable reception” the new Toblerone received.

However, the legal warning means that, despite press releases and promotional samples being sent out by Poundland, the Twin Peaks bar may never make its way onto the shelves.

Mondelez are determined to disprove the idea that Toblerone’s new shape negates its trademark privileges; as intellectual property lawyer Sally Britton told the Guardian, “If other businesses are selling chocolate bars of an identical shape to Toblerone it could be argued that its shape is losing its distinctiveness and is not functioning as a trademark. That’s why Toblerone is taking action.”

Poundland, though, are not backing down without a fight – they filed defence documents following the warning claiming that Toblerone has “irretrievably abandoned” the right to its trademark by changing the shape of its bars, also pointing out that the public “consider [the new shape] unfavourable in comparison”.

Image Credit: Engyles