Concept for - 'Pay farmers, not lawyers' - a costly statement?

Tony’s Chocolonely is back in the spotlight after launching temporary chocolate bar wrappers inspired by other well-known brands in a bid to highlight the use of child labour by major suppliers in the cocoa industry.

Highlighting inequality

This is not Tony’s first campaign to highlight the inequalities within the chocolate industry – the Dutch chocolate brand has built its business model on paying fair prices to cocoa farmers. Nor is this the chocolate maker’s first controversy related to their ethos with the brand being forced to apologise in 2021 when they left one of their advent calendar windows empty as a ‘conversation starter for change’, leading to complaints from unhappy parents.

The current campaign, which has only been released in Germany and Austria, is part of Tony’s Fair Alternative initiative, called Sweet Solutions in the UK, and is designed to encourage the wide industry to pay farmers more. Tony’s commented on the campaign stating ‘Most big chocolate companies don’t pay a living income price for all their cocoa, resulting in exploitation on cocoa farms, with 1.56 million children involved in child labour in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire.’ In an effort to raise awareness of this, Tony’s has launched four temporary wrappers resembling a Kit Kat, which is owned by Nestle, a Twix, owned by Mars, a Ferrero Rocher, owned by Ferrero and Milka, owned by Mondelez International.


Following the launch of the temporary wrappers, Mondelez brought proceedings against Tony’s for trade mark infringement for what Mondelez calls its ‘distinctive Milka lilac colour’. Mondelez was granted an injunction, forcing Tony’s to cease use of the purple lookalike bar. In response to the injunction the chocolate maker stated ‘We’ve had to change our bar – but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop raising awareness around the biggest problems in coca, which include lack of living income, child exploitation and deforestation’. Tony’s has since released a grey version of the Milka bar with the slogan ‘Pay Farmers, Not Lawyers’.

Should you pay lawyers?

While Tony’s message is important and highlights a decisive issue within the cocoa industry, their call of ‘Pay Farmers, Not Lawyers’ may not be the best course of action. Infringement proceedings and any subsequent appeals can quickly rack up bills, thereby diverting money that could be spent on more worthy causes.

Rather a better approach would be to seek legal advice in the first instance to highlight and address any potential trade mark issues including but not limited to potential infringements and therefore avoid any costly court proceedings allowing more money to be spent on important matters – such as fighting the injustice within the cocoa industry.

If you need legal advice regarding trade mark infringement or brand protection, please contact our Trade Mark team who will be happy to help.