"Square. Handy. Good": That is how Ritter Sport, a well-known German brand of chocolate, has advertised for years. And now the top German court has given it sole permission to use the square shape for its bars.
Ritter Sport chocolate bars are the only ones allowed to be sold in the shape of a square in Germany, the German Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on Thursday.
The final ruling came after yearslong attempts by Milka, a rival company, to remove trademark protection for the shape.
Judges at the court in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe ruled that the square shape of Ritter Sport 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 shape had no artistic value and did not result in price differences, they said.
According to company legend, the square shape of Ritter Sport chocolate blocks is a legacy of the firm's co-founder, Clara Ritter, who allegedly wanted chocolate that fitted into a normal sport jacket pocket without breaking yet still had the weight of a normal rectangular bar.
The company registered the square packaging of its chocolate bar as a trademark in the mid-1990s. Milka has been fighting for the right to produce its own square chocolate for a decade.