18 October 2016 | Reading time: 2 minutes
Confectionery companies and chocolatier giants, Mars and Mondelez International, have been battling over the use of a lower case ‘m’ on Mars’ packaging of M&M’s. This long-standing court battle in Sweden recently came to a head.
We all know that M&M’s has been a chocolate icon in many countries since as early as 1949 with its iconic tagline ‘Melts in your mouth – not in your hand’. However, it is a relative newcomer in the Swedish market where it was launched in 2009.
Mondelez, on the other hand, has been selling ‘marabou’ chocolate coated peanuts with a lower case ‘m’ in Sweden since 1957.
Sweet taste of success.
The Court of Appeal in Stockholm ruled that the 2 brands were confusingly similar and has banned Mars from importing, marketing or selling sweets or chocolate products under the labels M and M&M’s in Sweden.
Mars is prohibited from advertising its ‘m&m’s’ brand in Sweden with lower case letters ‘m&m’ on its packaging and each individual colourful chocolate.
Whilst Mars is still allowed to use an uppercase ‘M’ (as it does in corporate communications), it will be fined $250,000 each time it sells the treats under the m&m’s name.
Another interesting twist to the Mars vs Mondalez battle is that they struck a deal in 1989, and agreed that Mars would not sell M&Ms in Sweden, Norway or Finland. This agreement expired in 1998. As it was not renewed, Mars decided to start selling their once banned sweets in Sweden in 2009 using a lower case ‘m’. Not any longer.
This is not the first chocolate legal battle to be fought recently. In fact, earlier this year, Nestle lost its case to trade mark the finger shape of its KitKat bars. A British court ruled in favour of rival Cadbury after it objected to the Nestle application. As a result of this case, other chocolate companies are entitled to use the ‘finger’ shape on their confectionary.
In its competitive landscape, the chocolate industry will continue to take twists and turns. What we do know is that regardless of if it’s m&ms or M&Ms, we’re going to keep buying them and baking them into our cakes.