Ten years of legal battles end in a defeat for Milka (Mondelez): German Ritter Sport is now the only brand that is allowed to produce square chocolate bars.
A patent for a shape?
The German chocolate brand started producing its square chocolate tablets almost a century ago: in 1932, Ritter Sport had the idea for the shape because it allows to put the bar in a pocket without breaking it. It took the brand 61 years to file a patent, but still Milka decided to make its own square chocolate tablet in 2010.
This led to a court case, which Ritter Sport lost: in 2016, a judge said that patents for shapes cannot be issued, except for shapes that have a clear artistic value that warrants a clear price difference. In the eyes of the court of appeal, however, this was not correct: Ritter Sport won the second battle in 2018. Another two years later, the state supreme court at Karlsruhe agrees with the court of appeal: Milka has to stop selling its square tablets.
A few years ago, a similar chocolate war was waged between KitKat (Nestlé) and Leo (another Mondelez brand). The former had received a patent on the "four finger" design in 2006, which angered Mondelez. Twelve years later, the European Court of Justice agreed that the specific form is not distinctive enough and is not recognised as being as being typical for KitKat in all EU countries. At that time, Nestlé said it would not give up the fight, but that was - so far - the last we heard of the matter…