Tag Archives: ip


#SLABGATE – the dispute between Hotel Chocolat and Waitrose (or, why settling IP disputes in the media might not always go so well)

What’s #slabgate?

In case you haven’t seen the #slabgate IP dispute between Hotel Chocolat and Waitrose in the media:

Waitrose have been selling chocolate slab bars which Hotel Chocolat claim bear a resemblance to those produced by HC. Waitrose have recently agreed “to stop making the totally coincidentally very similar bars”[1]. HC have dubbed the whole issue #slabgate.

Waitrose agreeing to stop producing the bars is obviously a good outcome for HC. It also looks like a triumph for the idea of settling your IP disputes in the eye of the media.

I would caution taking this success too much to heart.

Here’s why:

  • Taking on people via the media is risky. You are relying on journalists and the public siding with you. They have no obligation to do so and it can backfire (think libel claims if you’re not careful about your own wording).
  • This outcome from this set of facts could unafirly give weight to the idea that “ideas” in themselves can be protected. Yes, HC have at least one European registered design[2], this one:slabgate

The design protection is granted for the whole image shown. This includes the shape of their “slab” inside packaging clearly marked with the Hotel Chocolat brand name and the sub brand “Caramarvellous”.

Quite honestly, I don’t think this was where the battle was won (particularly if this is the precise design right relied on).

  • There was no clear legal basis for the dispute. The result seems to be down to the fact that the two companies are very conscious of their PR and brand story. Put the same set of facts with two other companies and the outcome could have been far more brutal.
  • HC really capitalised on the PR which I would guess helped to get Waitrose to resolve this quickly. HC’s “amnesty” where customers could surrender their Waitrose bar in store in exchange for a “real” bar was a brave move.
  • Play this out as if the businesses involved were smaller, or less evenly matched, perhaps with a smaller budget and without the legal teams and PR teams talking to each other. The outcome for someone else is not guaranteed.

So yes, take heart, battles can be won even when the groundwork is shaky. But, think carefully before launching headlong into your own #slabgate campaign – it won’t necessarily be “…totally coincidentally very similar…” in outcome.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/25/hotel-chocolat-triumphs-in-chocolate-war-with-waitrose

[2] Design number 001438378-0011


When, and why, should I get a trade mark protected?


Things have been a bit quiet over here on the blog. It’s been a hectic few months with lots of lovely new clients joining us, as well as a holiday, a birthday and the initial stages of a house move, busy busy!


Inspired by this overwhelming busy-ness, it got me thinking about how hard it is to know what to do first when you’re setting up a new venture; and I’m the first to admit that getting your trade mark protected isn’t quite top of the list in terms of exciting things to do (like actually launching a product, getting your website done etc).

So when should you look at getting trade mark protection?

The answer is as soon as possible.

Why bother?

Having a trade mark registered gives you the presumed right to use the name to trade under. You don’t get that from your domain name, your logo or your article in the local magazine.

It also gives you the right to stop others from using the same, or a confusingly similar, name for the same business. This bit is important if you think you might be susceptible to those “inspired competitors” trying to encroach and pinch your brand.

But it seems like a lot of money to spend.

The costs are modest for a UK trade mark, and trade mark rights last for 10 years. Think of it as insurance for your brand name. It will be less than you spend on marketing, or website development, or even branded stationery over the same period.

I haven’t had any issues yet and I launched ages ago.

If you’ve been trading for a while, you’re not too late – it’s always a good idea to get trade mark protection no matter how long you have been trading. Trading for a while will have given you some reputation rights, but in practice these are hard to enforce, expensive to enforce, and likely to be limited to the geographical area you’ve got the reputation in.

You would say that, you’re a trade mark attorney.

I appreciate that this advice will seem biased. But bear in mind I’m not insisting you use a trade mark attorney to help you protect it – although there are lots of good reasons why you should here – seeing businesses adequately protect their brands will always make me happy, even if I haven’t helped them directly.

So, go forth and register your trade marks. And if you need some help, give me a shout!

Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday – Inspire Series

The lovely folk at Small Business Saturday have asked me to run a workshop for their even lovelier small businesses. That’s everyone with a small business by the way. No matter what stage you’re at.

You should know already that I’m quite keen on protecting brands and making sure that businesses are getting the most out of theirs. This workshop will cover everything from how to choose a name, or indeed a rebrand, to how to use it to make sure it remains yours, and also how to protect it to hopefully stop other people pinching it. There should be something for everyone in there although it’s mainly aimed at businesses who perhaps haven’t yet had any advice in this area or taken any steps to protect their brand yet.

The date is set (Thursday 29 September), the invites have been sent (please consider this yours) and now we wait patiently for the RSVPs. Well, the tickets to be reserved. Last time I was this excited about RSVPs was for my wedding – no pressure!

The tickets are free. You get to come and see me in person. The venue, Somerset House in London, is fantastic. Did I mention that the tickets are free? Well they are.

If you can’t make it in person, or if you miss out on a ticket (places are limited), you can follow along online. We’ll also have a live Twitter Q&A as part of the session – make sure you’re following us both @stanmoreip and @SmallBizSatUK

Full details and to book a ticket are here.

Hopefully see you in a few weeks.

domain names

Domain names and your brand

Do you own your domain name? If the answer is yes, think a bit harder. Do you own all of your domain names?

Most start-ups and small businesses have a website. But 9 times out of 10* they only own one domain name. And usually it’s the .com or the .co.uk ending.

Part of owning your brand comes from protecting as much as possible. It saves you having to argue with someone else over who should rightfully own things. My advice would be to look at see how many domain names you could/should own that contain your brand name. They are relatively cheap to own, you can point them all to the same website, or leave them dormant, but owning them is the important bit.

This past year has seen a whole host of new domain name endings launched and some still to be launched. Lots of them are relevant to SMEs, many are industry-specific or location specific. For example:






the list goes on.

Why not spend a few minutes reviewing what domain name endings there are available and consider purchasing the ones that are relevant to you.

On top of that, make sure they are all registered in the correct name. Make sure that you/your business own them and that your contact details are correct and up to date. If your web designer registered the domain name for you as part of their service, make sure it’s not in their name. Also make sure you know the passwords for your hosting accounts. Essentially make sure that you have full control over your business assets.

If you’d like any help with your brand protection strategy, or a review of your brand protection, please get in touch.


*Not a real statistic

Picture from Pixabay, with thanks.