The makers of Toblerone have announced that they are changing the shape of the product in an effort to reduce the weight of the bars. The reduction of in weight has been justified on the basis of costs, but interfering with the iconic look and shape of the bars is a significant risk. Indeed the company has been beset with criticism since the move was announced.
Perhaps the decision could be better understood, when we consider the Intellectual Property Rights which exist in a Toblerone bar and its packaging.
Toblerone has trademarks over the Toblerone name and logo and also over the shapes of various different elements of their triangular and combination packaging. By changing the shape of the chocolate bar as they have, they are able to continue to use the same packaging in the same dimensions. The off the shelf product bought by the consumers will look the same and so maintain continuity for the consumers in this regard.
The key element which is not protected is the shape of the chocolate bar itself. Protection can not be granted over this element as the shape fulfills a technical function in allowing the bar to be broken into pieces by squeezing the peaks together.
Whilst the shape of the chocolate bar is the image most consumers bring to mind when they think of a Toblerone bar, this element is not seen by the public until the product has already purchased and opened. Its value in distinguishing the product ‘on the shelf’ is therefore limited.Perhaps this is the reason why Toblerone have decided to interfere with the classic Toblerone bar design, but it may also be a prelude to Toblerone arguing that the new shape of the bar is no longer purely functional and so can qualify for legal protection.
Some fans of Toblerone’s distinctive triangular chocolate chunks are feeling down in the mouth after the look of two bars sold in the UK was changed.
Mondelez International, the company behind the product, has increased the gap between the peaks to reduce the weight of what were 400g and 170g bars.
Some consumers have described the move as “the wrong decision” and said the bigger spaces looked “stupid”.