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The Colour Purple: an exercise in expensive litigation

“Wouldn’t it be nice if the world was Cadbury?”, proclaim its advertisements ad nauseam. Well, as long as you’re not locked in a legal battle with them. Aggressive legal tactics, backroom deals - the food and retail giant is pulling out all stops.

ImageCadbury’s trade mark application for purple, opposed by competitor Darrell Lea, was accepted for registration but only in regards to block chocolate and box chocolate.  Whilst the decision is probably a points victory for Darrell Lea, both sides have predictably appealed the decision to the Federal Court.

Previously Cadbury had also been opposed by fellow food giant Nestle, but Nestle dropped out of the fight in return for a "Get out of litigation free card". This secret agreement later ended up working against Cadbury when it was revealed in their unsuccessful trade practices claim.  However, Cadbury have kept that fire burning in the Federal Court by appealing the original decision.

Whilst most smaller players have little or no interest in registering a colour, the Cadbury case serves to remind everyone of one enduring and very important lesson: take care when dealing with the big boys.  Having a strong brand and protecting it is vital to successful commercialisation, but careful searching and brand positioning prior to selecting your brand will minimise your exposure and avoid incurring the wrath of an aggressive litigant.


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