Mondelēz issues legal warning over snacks brand Primal Pantry’s use of lilac

Global confectionery group Mondelēz International has issued a legal warning to UK healthy snack brand Primal Pantry on concerns over the company’s use of the colour lilac for one of its ranges, writes Neill Barston.

According to the BBC, the US-headquartered major chocolate maker, behind companies including Cadbury and Oreo, has claimed the British firm has infringed on its established Milka bar range, with lawyers for the business now reportedly issuing demands for removal of the London-based company’s stock from shelves.

However, the firm, which is under the banner of its parent group, Nurture Brands, specialising in healthier option snacks ranges including protein bars, vegetable thins and sweet potato sticks, has denied that there is any breach of trademark.

The company’s director Adam Draper confirmed that the snack series had launched in 2016 under a variety of colours, with the lilac tone being just one of the latest of these, and he did not believe there was a case to answer.

In a statement on its website, the B-Corp registered company felt disappointed at what it described as a ‘lawyer led’ approach from Mondelēz. “We are facing our next challenge. In the past 24 hours, we have been contacted and threatened with legal action in relation to chocolate brand ‘Milka’, owned by the confectionery giant Mondelez International, over the colour of our Real Food Cocoa bar packaging. Their claim is that our product is imitating the Milka brand and that the lilac colours are identical and confusing their shoppers.

“While they own a trademark and a specific colour of lilac, they do not own all colours and we believe our packaging is not close enough to warrant taking our product off the shelves across the whole of the EU and signing a very onerous ‘cease and desist’ contract. What has really taken us by surprise is the direct and uncompromising approach taken by the Mondelez. With no option for a conversation, nor a request for the actual pantone references of our product, we have been asked to accept defeat or prepare for a long court battle, where they would pursue us for costs and damages. So, it is a David versus Goliath affair but we think the claims are unreasonable and the approach unnecessarily aggressive.”

The company also took to Instagram to let consumers decide whether there are similarities between the packaging styles of the two products, asking shoppers to ‘spot the difference’ between the two.

The case comes in the wake of a similar incident two years ago, in which the company’s core Cadbury brand lost a long-running claim over moves to alter existing trademarks it had registered regarding its classic Dairy Milk purple wrapping.

This had previously been challenged by Nestle in 2013, and consequently, a Court of Appeal hearing confirmed that the business could not be permitted to trademark the blanket use of an entire colour, which observers had noted would have given it a monopoly on packaging styles.

Regarding the latest case with Primal Pantry, Mondelez said that it was seeking to protect its existing brands. A statement for the company read: “We own a colour trademark in Europe for the distinctive lilac Milka colour for food products.

“As a matter of practice, to protect the value of our brands, which we have worked hard to build over hundreds of years, we express our concerns to third parties when we feel they are using a protected brand element. We have opened up conversations with Primal Pantry to try and resolve the matter amicably.”

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