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Artsvik Davtyan

Seda Hergnyan

Lebanese-Armenian Chocolatier Complains of Cheap, Low-Quality Copycats

LEE Deluxe LLC, a company in Armenia that manufactures LEE Deluxe chocolate candies, claims that copycat brands almost indistinguishable from theirs are being sold throughout the country.

Lebanese-Armenian Vatche Kuzelian, co-founder of the company, tells Hetq that the copycat candies are like theirs in terms of packaging buy much lower in quality. 

“This makes it difficult for consumers to distinguish which of them is the real Lee,” says Kuzelian whose company started producing chocolate candies named Lee in 2013. At first, the factory was operated by LEE Chocolate LLC, and starting in 2023 by LEE Deluxe LLC.

The name LEEDELUXE, as well as the trademark, was registered at Armenia’s Intellectual Property Agency (IPA) in 2014. The agency is a division of the Ministry of the Economy.

Kuzelian says customers who’ve purchased the copycat candies have contacted his company complaining about a deterioration of quality. He tells them to pay closer attention to what they’re buying.

Kuzelian says State Revenue Committee employees visited his factory three years ago, accusing it of selling candies marked Lee without proper documentation. They later confirmed that the batch in question was a copycat brand with similar packaging and logo.

Lee's Deluxe LLC has brought the matter to various state agencies, but so far, no results have been achieved.

Kuzelian says his company has incurred losses of 150-200 million drams over the past five years because of the copycat brands on the market. The company is preparing to take the matter to the courts.

"When we produce a new type of candy with new packaging, the copycats soon appear. Such candies, bearing the Lee name, are sold at Yerevan’s Petak market, and elsewhere in the Armenian capital, and in Gyumri, Vanadzor and other cities " says Kuzelian, adding that the fakes sell for less than the real stuff.

In June of this year, Kuzelian’s company contacted the Intellectual Property Agency and reported the copycat brands. The agency replied that it has no enforcement powers and merely registers patents and trademarks.

Kuzelian then contacted Armenia’s Competition Protection Commission (CPC) for assistance.

 “They responded that we should submit a new report, giving more detailed information according to their regulations. However, during a verbal conversation with us, one of the commission's employees said the imitations were small in volume and that it makes no sense file a new report," says Kuzelian.

CPC spokesperson Ani Smbatyan told Hetq that she’s informed the staff about this issue. The commission has not disclosed any other details so far.

Hetq searched the online database of Armenia’s Intellectual Property Agency and apart from LEEDELUXE and the Lebanese LEE CHOC, we did not come across any other company that uses the name LEE for chocolate production.

Candies named LEE, which are not related to LEE Deluxe LLC, are actively advertised on social networks in Armenia.

One of them is Choco Lee Chocolate, which has a website presenting its range of chocolates and an Instagram page.

The person answering the phone number registered on the website of Choco Lee Chocolate introduced himself as the director of the company, Mkrtich Mkrtchyan.

After saying he doesn’t talk to reporters, Mkrtchyan said that his Lee Chocolate brand has nothing to do with LEE Deluxe.

When asked which company produces chocolates called Choco Lee Chocolate, Mkrtchyan first answered LEE Chocolate, then Choco LEE Chocolate. However, in Armenia’s corporate state register there is just one LLC named LEE Chocolate owned by Vatche Kuzelian and his partners. No company named Choco LEE Chocolate was found.

We also tried to find the name of the manufacturing company on the back of a Choco LEE Chocolate candy box, but only read it was produced in Belgium and packed in Armenia.  

When we asked if Choco LEE Chocolate has a registered name at the Intellectual Property Agency, Mkrtchyan answered: "First, I have, and second, it’s none of your business.” He said everything is made public.

Comments (3)

Gagik Torosyan
I look at the problem from a different point of view, because, without reading the other inscriptions on the box, encouraged by the name of the best American jeans manufacturer for almost 150 years, whose trousers I love to wear, especially the velvet ones, I bought it. I knew that some similar companies also produce different products under such a brand, strictly guarding their good name. However, I was doubly deceived; on the one hand, it has nothing to do with the American trouser and other clothing company I know, and according to your account it is not genuine but a local surrogate. I am even more convinced that it is impossible to create order and rules in this country because, as far as I understand it, the current creators of order and rules /ՔՊԿ or party of <civil legal contract>/ are the authors of this mess. Specifically, unrelated to this chocolate-and-pants topic. All pavements in Yerevan are covered with paving stones /at least in the neighborhood where I live for the second time in a year/, "evil" tongues say that this is the business of the new mayor of Yerevan or his entourage. And the paving stone in front of the building near the Agrarian University from the "Plani Glukha" side, which has been recently put up for 2 months, is dissolving in the rainwater, perhaps it will be changed again in the near future. Can you imagine a water soluble paving stone? What a scientific achievement!!!
Wake up, people wake up! if you continue this type of lax rule of law, we will continue to be mediocre we will not grow and we will be absorbed by our neighbors. The only way to grow to double or triple the population is through trust. Somebody needs to stamp out these counterfeit chocolate makers as an example of the rule of law being enforced in Armenia
A bunch of people are doing great harm to the business... Not much has changed in the last years. This same would apply to Armenian brandy and wines, juices and so on ... if there are no relay hard strict regulations and quality control in the country, soon no one would like to buy Armenia made brandy or wines and all other things.. Armenian government doesn't want to understand that “Diaspora Armenian Customers” won't be there for ever - weak up!!!!!

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