German chocolate bar maker Ritter Sport has won a ten-year legal battle against US-owned Milka ruling that their square packaging is officially trademarked.
The final decision was made at the German Federal Court of Justice, the country’s highest court ruling, today (Thursday, July 23).
Judges concluded that Ritter Sport’s iconic square shape did not give the product any additional value that could influence buyers to choose it over other chocolate bars.
They said that consumers saw the square packaging only as indicating that the chocolate was from a particular company from which they expected a certain quality.
The court said: “On the basis of findings by the Federal Patents Court, the square shape of the packaging has no particular artistic value and does not lead to significant price differences with similar products.
“It may be that the consumer buys the chocolate because the square shape of the packaging gives the consumer an indication that the chocolate originates from a specific company and therefore links that to specific quality. But that is not the point.”
It is believed that company co-founder, Clara Ritter, suggested the quadrant design so that the product could fit into every sport jacket pocket without breaking yet weighed the same as regular rectangle bar.
Ritter Sport registered the square packaging as a trademark in 1993, however, when confectionary Mondelez released a square-shaped Milka bar in 2010, things quickly went to court.
Milka initially won the case in 2016 by having Ritter Sport’s trademark removed before it was swiftly overturned and declined again.
“The shape of a product or packaging can only be excluded from trademark protection if it gives significant value to the product.” the court added.
The final ruling means that Ritter Sports is now the only top-brand square chocolate bar on the shelves in German shops.