Battle over Norwegian chocolate
KitKat’s makers cannot claim a trademark exclusive affecting Norway’s Kvikk Lunsj, initial ruling finds
The 10-year-plus feud started when Cadbury, owned by U.S. Company Mondelēz International, wanted to trademark the purple color it uses on its chocolate wrappers. Judges ruled in favor of Cadbury.
UK High Court judges overturned this ruling in 2013, however, following a complaint by Swiss conglomerate Nestlé, which owns and makes KitKat.
In turn, Nestlé’s 2010 attempt to trademark the shape of its four-finger KitKat chocolate in the UK has landed the Swiss company in trouble with Mondelēz International.
The U.S. company also owns Norway’s Freia, which manufactures Kvikk Lunsj. The chocolate product shares KitKat’s appearance.
According to the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union, Nestlé’s move does not comply with European legislation. The decision comes following a request by UK High Court judges for the preliminary ruling.
KitKat, initially known as “Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp” was first produced in September 1935 by York-based Rowntree. Two years later, it would be re-branded as KitKat Chocolate Crisp, becoming the well-known KitKat after the Second World War.
Nestlé has argued that the bar’s physical form had “acquired a distinctive character associated with the company since its launch.” Moreover, the Swiss-owned company has said that 90% of respondents associate the chocolate-covered wafer fingers with KitKat.
Norway’s Kvikk Lunsj was created in 1937 and is still in production, which has been uninterrupted save for a pause between 1941 and 1949 due to a sugar shortage and flour quality problems. The chocolate was “an important foodstuff when polar hero [Roald] Amundsen reached the North Pole in 1911,” Freia says.
Moreover, 10 million Kvikk Lunsj were sold when Norway arranged the 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo. It is also a favorite with Norwegians while on their walks in Norway, with the Scandinavian country’s inhabitants consuming vast quantities at Easter time.
The Court of Justice of the European Union is expected to come with its advice in a few months. The case of Nestlé’s application will then return to the UK’s High Court, whose judges will decide its fate.
The Swiss company is also trying to get the trademark for the shape in Europe, which is a separate case.
It also appeared in the June 26, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.