A recent news article last week talked about a dispute between a chocolatier and a supermarket chain in the UK. Hotel Chocolat allegedly claims that the grocery retailer, Waitrose, has plagiarized some of their chocolate bars. A photo posted by @TweetsFood shows the similarities:
The news article published by The Week starts with the headline, “Waitrose accused of chocolate plagiarism by Hotel Chocolat”. The headline implies that “chocolate plagiarism” is actually a thing, in the same way that text plagiarism or computer code plagiarism is a thing. It begs the question: Is “chocolate plagiarism” actually a thing?
There are many definitions of plagiarism available. One of most often cited definitions comes from University of Calgary professor, Irving Hexam who has a terrific web resource dedicated to plagiarism. Hexam cites the Compact Oxford English Dictionary and talks about stealing not only text, but also designs and ideas. If this is so, then it is worth observing that the design of the bars, both of which feature curvy edges, a mix of pink and white chocolate and fruit on top, really do seem quite similar. It might also be argued that the design for the bars may have been lifted without credit. So, I think an argument could be made.
What’s interesting though, is that outside of academic contexts, plagiarism isn’t actually punishable by law in many jurisdictions (at least as far as I know). It is morally reprehensible and unethical, but not actually illegal. This begs the question: Should industry bodies include plagiarism in their code of ethics and conduct for their members? It’s an interesting question and my first reaction is: yes.
In educational and academic circles we talk about “integrity”. In business, the term “ethics” is used. One business school defines the two terms as being closely related. If we send the message that integrity matters in school, but not in industry, that’s troubling. The message that both ethics and integrity matters after graduation needs to be taken up by someone other than academic institutions. Even if legislation doesn’t criminalize the ripping off ideas and designs, it is incumbent upon the bodies that oversee various industries to ensure that ethics and integrity are upheld as industry standards. I am not sure what industry body in the UK exists among grocers and food producers, but there must be one. I’d like to hear them chime in on this debate.
Share or Tweet this: Can you plagiarize chocolate? https://wp.me/pNAh3-2iJ
This blog has had over 1.9 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!
Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.
Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.