Monday, January 7, 2013

The 4-fingered chocolate battle

Have you ever thought about KitKat's shape in the form of 4 fingers and how that came about? Nestle, which owns Kitkat, has just won a trademark battle against Cadbury in a European-wide ruling re-instating that the four-fingered and three-dimensional shape of the KitKat is exclusive to Nestle. What this effectively means is that no confectionery manufacturer can produce and sell chocolates in the form of the KitKat's 'four-fingers'.

The original KitKat manufacturer, Rowntree in Yorkshire, launched KitKat in the 1930s after an employee's recommendation that the company should produce "a chocolate bar that a man could take to work in his pack up". The result was the four-finger chocolate bar as we know it today. It was an immediate success and was then rolled out all across the UK.

Much later, in 2006, Nestle registered the shape of the KitKat as a trademark, but rival Cadbury then won an appeal that invalidated the registration. Now Nestle has emerged again as the winner. 

While many seem to have had similar foresight and registered their shapes, imagery, colour etc as unique trademarks, e.g. Ferrero Rocher's golden paper-wrapped chocolates and Hershey's kisses, significant fortunes must have been lost by failing to register trademarks on time, such as the recent case of the chocolate Easter Bunny.

One could argue that because we now live in a time where image is everything and anything can set a company apart from its competitors, such rulings would enable companies to protect their competitive advantage. Do you agree with this ruling? Can it lead to anti-competitiveness?

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