M&M chocolates could soon disappear from sweet shops all over Sweden, unless parent company Mars is able to come up with a remedy to a long running trademark dispute.
Following a court ruling in Stockholm, Mars faces a hefty fine of up to £170,000 if it attempts to sell its chocolate under the M&M brand name.
Mars was found to have breached a trademark belonging to Mondelez International, which in Sweden, successfully markets its ‘Marabou’ chocolate covered peanut confectionary, using the familiar lower case ‘m’ symbol on its packaging.
Mondelez, which in the UK owns Cadbury, now has exclusive rights to the ‘m’ trademark in Sweden.
Mars will no longer be able to use its customary lower case ‘m’ which it uses both on its packaging and imprinted onto its chocolates. There was some small comfort for the manufacturer as the Court found that using the upper-case ‘M&Ms’, as Mars does in its corporate communications, doesn’t constitute a trademark infringement in Sweden.
BJ Chong, an intellectual property expert with Palmers, said: “This bitter dispute between the two chocolate giants has been rumbling on for a number of years and has hinged on each company’s right to use a lower case ‘m’ on its respective products.
“Back In 1989, the two companies allegedly reached an agreement that Mars would not sell M&Ms in Scandinavia. It would appear that this agreement expired in 1998 and some 11 years later, in 2009, Mars made the decision to market M&Ms in Sweden.
“One year later, Mars went on the offensive, counter-suing Mondelez’s “m” trademark, declaring it invalid, a move which has ultimately proved to be unsuccessful.”
BJ added: “Whilst many Swedish consumers may be left scratching their heads wondering what all the fuss was about, over a single lower case letter, the protracted legal battle has cost both parties dearly and will either lead to a loss in market share for Mars or will mean a complete rebranding of their popular confectionary line for the Swedish market.
“This case highlights the importance of protecting and regulating trademarks, particularly if your company has future ambitions to expand overseas.”
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