Waitrose has been accused of “crossing the line” by allegedly copying a premium confectioner’s design for a new range of chocolate bars.
Hotel Chocolat said the supermarket chain’s recently launched Luxury Chocolate Bar own-label range looked very similar to the wavy shapes of its own slabs which are registered with the EU Intellectual Property Office.
The confectioner’s founder Angus Thirlwell criticised Waitrose on Twitter, saying: “‘Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ apparently but hey @waitrose this crosses the line!! As well as breaching our Registered Design Mark, designed to protect innovation.”
Mr Thirlwell told The Grocer magazine that he had written to Waitrose “highlighting the similarity” and “asking them to do the right thing”.
He said some Twitter users thought his firm was supplying the new own-label range to Waitrose, which was not the case and was a concern for the brand.
He said: “The big risk for us is that people think we’re making those bars. All over social media people are saying, ‘I didn’t think Hotel Chocolat made bars for anyone else but they’re making these.’
“We want to shout from the roof tops we’re not.”
Replying to one such post on Twitter, Mr Thirlwell said: “We are not making these and feel quite emotional about it!!”
A Hotel Chocolat spokeswoman said the company was looking into whether it could possibly take legal action on the basis that the curvy slabs are a registered design and customers could be confused because the bars look similar.
Waitrose told The Grocer it takes the intellectual property rights of other businesses “extremely seriously” and was looking into the points raised by Mr Thirlwell.