There’s nothing sweet about the U.K. trademark battles between Mondelez International Inc.’s Cadbury unit and Nestle SA.
After Nestle blocked Cadbury’s bid to trademark the color purple used for its chocolate wrappers, the U.K. confectioner has turned the tables on its Swiss rival, opposing a similar attempt by Nestle to protect the shape of its KitKat bar.
The dispute was too rich for Judge Richard Arnold in London, who today referred the case to the European Union Court of Justice in Luxembourg for guidance on EU law.
Cadbury, the U.K.’s biggest chocolate maker, opposed Nestle’s 2010 application to trademark the four-fingered chocolate, which sold 40 million pounds ($66 million) worth of bars a year between 2008 and 2010 in the U.K., Arnold said in a ruling.
The KitKat was first sold in the U.K. in 1935 by Rowntree & Co., with the shape changing very little since then, Arnold said. Nestle, the world’s biggest food company, bought Rowntree Plc in 1998 and owns the trademark to the bar shape in the rest of Europe.
The U.K. Trade Marks Registry turned down the application to protect the chocolate bar in the U.K. in 2013 following the opposition from Cadbury, Arnold said in his ruling.
“We are pleased the High Court has not upheld the original decision and we shall await further word from the Court of Justice,” James Maxton, a based spokesman for Vevey, Switzerland-based Nestle, said in an e-mailed statement.
Nestle won a U.K. Court of Appeal ruling in October blocking Cadbury from obtaining a trademark for the color purple it uses to package its milk chocolate.
Mondelez, which also makes Oreo cookies, was created in a split of Kraft Foods Group Inc. in 2012. Deerfield, Illinois-based Mondelez had an 18.3 percent share of the western European chocolate confectionery market in 2013, according to Bloomberg Industries data.
Tony Bilsborough, a U.K. spokesman for Mondelez, said the company will also await the EU court’s decision.
The case is Societe des Produits Nestle v Cadbury U.K. Ltd. in the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, case no CH/2013/0394