Chocolate lovers in the US are up in arms over a trade mark dispute between Hershey and importer LBB (Let’s Buy British) Imports LLC, a New Jersey company that sells speciality products from Britain, in particular Cadbury’s chocolates manufactured in the UK.

In August 2014, Hershey Co. filed a trade mark infringement action in the Pennsylvania courts against LBB claiming violation of its trade mark rights (Hershey Co. v. LBB Imports LLC, No. 14-1655 (U.S. Dist. Ct. M.D. Penn.). LBB had been importing confectionery from the UK including trade marks such as Toffee Crisp, Maltesers, Kit Kat, Rolo and Cadbury, which Hershey Co. controls either directly or under licence from other companies. In particular, Hershey claimed that the black and orange packaging of Toffee Crisp too closely resembled the trade dress of its Reese’s chocolate product. There was also concern that consumers might confuse the UK brands Yorkie and Maltesers with Hershey’s York and Malteser products and with the dilution of Hershey’s rights in the various trade marks due to the activities of the importer.

This is an interesting development, particularly in light of the relationship between these transatlantic confectionery giants. The Cadbury brand in Britain (which dates back to the 1820s) has endured many changes in ownership, such that the company’s operations, products, and brand rights vary on opposite sides of the Atlantic. In 1988, Cadbury was part of Cadbury Schweppes. That year, Hershey paid $300 million for Cadbury Schweppes’ US candy operations, which included trade marks such as Mounds, Almond Joy, York Peppermint Patties as well as Dairy Milk and Carmello. In 2010, the rest of the Cadbury business was acquired outright by Kraft (now Mondelez International, Inc), another US company, thereby putting the British chocolate label completely under American ownership.

A settlement has recently been concluded by the disputing factions with LBB agreeing to stop selling the forbidden confections and Hershey has since dropped its lawsuit. Coming on foot of Kraft Food secretly changing the classic Cadbury Creme Egg recipe (it was recently reported that Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate will no longer be used on the outside of the egg in the UK), this latest chocolate dispute has left a bitter taste.