Family feud over chocolate empire
A WELL-known Queensland family chocolate business is at the centre of a bitterly fought legal fight of "Shakespearean" proportions, triggered by a tragic family break-up, a court has heard.
Noosa Chocolate Factory co-founder Pam Thomson has gone to court in a bid to block her son, Chris Thomson, from selling similar chocolate bearing the NCF logo in his rival store, and from controlling the NCF website and social media pages.
Mr Thomson, 31, was in a Brisbane court yesterday to respond to "distressing" accusations made by his mother that he has flagrantly impersonated her business.
Justice John Logan told the court that the stoush had a Shakespearean quality.
Lutwyche man Mr Thomson resigned in April as a director of Tobias Qld, a company wholly owned by Mrs Thomson which claims to own the business name of NCF.
He told the court he registered the business name, NCF, in 2009. In the past month he began trading with a new chocolate business with his partner Amy Sargeantson, selling chocolate from a store in Adelaide St in Brisbane's CBD.
The store is across the road from the two NCF stores and sells chocolate labelled with the NCF logo, claiming to be NCF's founder.
Mrs Thomson, of Noosa Heads, alleges her son has also taken the NCF website, its Instagram and Facebook pages and MYOB software, because he won't give her the passwords. She also accuses him of taking a Range Rover car as well as $500,000 in company loans and chocolate making equipment - claims Mr Thomson denies.
Mrs Thomson has asked the court to order he pay her exemplary damages for flagrant passing off the business, which reportedly turned over $4.5 million last year.
In court yesterday, where Mrs Thomson was seeking an injunction to ban her son from using the NCF name, the case was referred to mediation.
Mrs Thomson's barrister argued Mr Thomson had subsumed the persona of NCF, "on the website at least".
Mr Thomson's barrister argued sometimes the lines of ownership of family businesses were blurred because they were not always set up with legal and accounting advice.
Outside court, Mr Thomson said he had grown the business by selling at local markets in Noosa with little input from his mother.
Justice Logan said Mr Thomson started the company with the help of his father, who was a great chocolatier, and his mother, who had obviously had very significant input.
Both sides agreed to go to mediation within the next month, and until the mediation was completed, to hand over the NCF Instagram, Facebook and NCF website to Mrs Thomson's company Tobias Qld.