Godiva Can’t Slip Suit Over Using ‘Belgium 1926’ on Labels (subscription to Law360 required)

  • A proposed class action lawsuit filed against Godiva Chocolatier in January 2019 alleges that consumers in New York and California were misled by the claim “Belgium 1926” on chocolate that was made in Pennsylvania.  The plaintiffs assert that Belgium, the country of origin implied by the claim, is recognized “as producing among the highest quality chocolates in the world,” and that American chocolate is different.  Godiva motioned to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that a reasonable consumer would realize that the disputed claim only means that the company was founded in Belgium in 1926.
  • On May 29, 2020, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the disputed claim creates a “plausible inference” that the chocolates are made in Europe.  Thus, numerous claims alleging violations of New York and California consumer protection laws may proceed.  The judge denied injunctive relief, however, ruling that plaintiffs lacked standing because their potential for future harm is conditional, being dependent on plaintiffs choosing to purchase the chocolate again.
  • Godiva reportedly told Law360 that it will continue to fight the proposed class action lawsuit, maintaining the “Belgium 1926” claim clearly pertains only to the company’s heritage.  Godiva is concurrently defending a lawsuit filed by an individual under the District of Columbia’s consumer protection laws based on the “Belgium 1926” claim.  On February 18, 2020 in an order remanding the individual lawsuit to the D.C. Superior Court, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction and denied Godiva’s request to transfer the case to the federal court in the Southern District of New York.