THE TH BATTLE FOR FO NOOSA CHOCOLATE CH EMPIRE E
Family businesses are not always set up with legal and accounting advice BARRISTER JOSHUA FENTON
A QUEENSLAND family chocolate business is at the centre of a bitter legal fight of “Shakespearean” proportions, triggered by a “tragic” family breakup, 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 had “flagrantly” impersonated her business.
Justice John Logan told the court the stoush had “a Shakespearean quality”.
Mr Thomson of Lutwyche, 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 partner Amy Sargeantson, selling chocolate from a shop in Adelaide St in Brisbane’s CBD.
It is across the road from the two NCF stores and sells chocolate labelled with the NCF logo and 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” of the business which reportedly turned over $4.5 million last year.
In court yesterday, Mrs Thomson was seeking an injunction to ban her son from using the NCF name.
Mr Thomson’s barrister, Joshua Fenton, argued “sometimes the lines of ownership” of family businesses were blurred because family businesses were not always set up with legal and accounting advice.
Outside court, Mr Thomson said he grew the business by selling at local markets, 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 has obviously had very significant input”.
Both sides agreed to go to mediation within the next month and, until it is completed, to hand over the NCF Instagram, Facebook and website to Mrs Thomson’s company, Tobias Qld.
FAMILY FALLOUT: Chris Thomson with his mother, Pamela Thomson; and (insets) Mr Thomson’s partner, Amy Sargeantson; and The Dark Chocolatier shop in Brisbane.