WEST VILLAGE — It's a war on Cadbury.
British businesses in New York City, including the Village's Tea & Sympathy, are up in arms over a lawsuit preventing them from importing Cadbury eggs and other candies from England.
Nicky Perry, owner of Tea & Sympathy, was shocked when one of her suppliers told her last week that she would no longer be able to order the Cadbury chocolates she grew up eating.
"It's just another thing to make everybody miserable," said Perry, 55. "Why are we having a fight about chocolate? I mean, chocolate!"
The intellectual property lawsuit, brought by American candy company The Hershey Co. against LBB Imports, claims that various British candies are too similar to those manufactured by Hershey's and cannot be sold in the United States.
The orange wrappers on British Toffee Crisp candies are too similar to wrappers on Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, for instance, potentially confusing shoppers, Hershey's claimed in the lawsuit. England's Yorkie chocolate bars should also be forbidden, because they are too similar in name to Hershey's York Peppermint Patties, even though they have different packaging and a different shape, the lawsuit says.
Also, Hershey's holds an exclusive right to produce some other British candies — like Cadbury Creme Eggs — and package them under the same name as the originals, according to the lawsuit.
Most Cadbury eggs in typical American stores are likely produced by Hershey's. British specialty stores seek out imported British versions for authenticity — and because many British transplants, like Perry, believe the original candy recipe is superior.
"You know what’s behind it, right?" Perry fumed, referring to Hershey's lawsuit. "Hershey’s doesn’t want people to eat Cadbury’s, because Cadbury’s is so much better, people aren’t going to be buying their filth."
The recipes used by Hershey's in the United States and by Cadbury in the United Kingdom differ, said Hershey spokesman Jeff Beckman, because Hershey's recipe adheres to American food regulations, which differ from those in the U.K.
Perry said the loss of Cadbury and other British chocolate products won't decimate her business, because she has an eatery in addition to her store. But she is concerned about other British retailers in the city, like the nearby Hudson Street specialty grocer Myers of Keswick.
"With all our rent and the real estate taxes — how do people think we can survive?" Perry said. "I mean, this is going to put everybody out of business, man."
An employee at Myers of Keswick confirmed the West Village shop is negatively impacted by the lawsuit, but declined to say more. A message left for the owner was not immediately returned.
LBB Imports president Nathan Dulley said the company is working out a settlement deal with Hershey's but declined to go into specifics.
Beckman, Hershey's spokesman, said LBB had already agreed to stop importing British Cadbury products as a result of the lawsuit.
"It is important for Hershey to protect its trademark rights and to prevent consumers from being confused or misled when they see a product name or product package that is confusingly similar to a Hershey name or trade dress," Beckman said.
"Hershey has always vigorously protected its brands and will continue to do so whenever we believe that others have infringed on these valuable intellectual assets."