Hotel Chocolat takes a bite out of Waitrose over chocolate dispute

Upmarket grocery shop, Waitrose, has been accused by UK luxury chocolate manufacturer, Hotel Chocolat, of breaching its intellectual property (IP).

The accusations arose following Waitrose’s launch of a new range of chocolate bars, or slabs, which the chocolatier claims infringe on a registered design for one of its own line.

The co-founder of Hotel Chocolat, Angus Thirlwell, initially took to Twitter to voice his views on the alleged infringement, coining the hashtag #Slabgate, but has since instructed lawyers to contact Waitrose and demand that the supermarket ceases to sell its slabs and has them destroyed.

As of 22 May, the two companies were involved in talks.

In the meantime, Hotel Chocolat has launched a tongue-in-cheek #Slabgate amnesty, allowing anybody who has bought a “look-alike” Waitrose bar and found it lacking in the quality of the “original”, to take the half-eaten bar into one of HC’s stores for a free exchange.

Commenting on the dispute, a spokesperson for Waitrose said: “We are confident that we have not infringed any of Hotel Chocolat’s 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.”

The case follows on from a similar dispute at the end of last year, when Poundland had to redesign the look of one of its chocolate products after Mondelez International claimed it infringed on its iconic Toblerone.