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Trademark dispute leads to British chocolates flaking out

For people who love British chocolates, life got a little less sweet this weekend.

On Saturday, The New York Times reported that the Hershey’s Co. had entered an agreement with Let’s Buy British Imports, which had sold candies such as Flake Bars and Maltesers to shops in the United States. Let’s Buy British came to a settlement with Hershey’s that resulted in it no longer being able to sell Cadbury chocolates that had been made overseas to US retailers.

Hershey’s has a license to manufacture Cadbury-branded chocolate in the United States. The British editions of the candies had been available here via the gray market — Let’s Buy British Imports had sold them to individual stores that were interested in bringing a bit of culture from across the pond.


Late last year, Hershey’s won a court battle against Posh Nosh, another importer of products that the Pennsylvania-based candy company said infringed on its trademarks.

Cardullo’s Gourmet Shoppe, located in Harvard Square, is one of the Boston-area retailers that sells the European-made Cadbury offerings, and buyer Donez Cardullo told the Globe that even though the threat of the candies being taken off shelves has lurked for years, her customers would be unhappy.

“There is a difference, and if you’ve ever traveled or lived abroad, you know. It was always great for us to carry the European [varieties of] Cadbury,” said. “I’m sad that the hammer has dropped.”

Hershey spokesman Jeff Beckman provided the Globe with a list of US Cadbury offerings, which include Dairy Milk and the much-beloved Cadbury Creme Egg. But Cardullo noted that there’s a crucial difference between the US Cadbury offerings and the ones her store currently imports: The first ingredient in the European candies’ milk chocolate is milk, not sugar, which results in a different flavor profile and consistency.


And chocolate lovers, she said, are all too aware of the difference.

“I’ll be on the sales floor and [customers] will say, ‘No, you don’t understand, this isn’t the same as what you buy at CVS,’” she said. “It’s fun to hear people explain to novices that the chocolate is extremely different, because the first ingredient is milk, versus sugar.”

Beckman said that Hershey’s is merely exercising its right as the US trademark holder of the Cadbury name.

“It is important for Hershey to protect its trademark rights and to prevent consumers from being confused or misled when they see a product name or product package that is confusingly similar to a Hershey name or trade dress,” said Beckman.

Hershey is making similarity claims over, among other candies, Cadbury’s Yorkie bars, which have a name similar to that of Hershey’s York Peppermint Patty, Toffee Crisps, the packages of which use orange and yellow colors similar to that of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

“The Toffee Crisp looks like a Reese’s? But there’s no peanut butter in a Toffee Crisp,” said Cardullo. “A hot dog is not a hamburger.”

For now, stores like Cardullo’s are going to keep selling their current stock, and see if there are any remaining offerings left, or if their Easter orders will be canceled. The sales of what’s left will be legal: “We are not seeking to seize products that have already been grey marketed into the United States,” Beckman told the Globe via e-mail.


“We don’t know how quickly [the ban] is going into effect — obviously I’ll try and buy everything I can that’s not short-dated so we can have them on our shelves for as long as possible,” said Cardullo.

Maura Johnston can be reached at maura.johnston@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @maura.