No EU trademark for chocolate rabbit, says court

Lindt chocolate bunnies (file pic) The European Court considered carefully the shape of the rabbit, the foil and pleated red ribbon

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A Swiss-made chocolate bunny, wrapped in gold foil and with a red ribbon around its neck, cannot be registered as a trademark, the EU court has ruled.

Lindt and Spruengli have made the rabbit since 1952 and applied for an EU trademark in 2004.

But other firms make Easter chocolate bunnies too and an Austrian company has even wrapped them in gold foil.

Now the European Court has confirmed an earlier ruling that Lindt's rabbit is devoid of any distinctive character.

Lindt appealed against the initial ruling, arguing that it had built a trademark over a long period and wanted to protect what had become a strong brand.

In making its initial judgement in 2010, the EU's second-highest court - the General Court - examined the shape of the rabbit, the gold foil and the pleated red ribbon to which a small bell was attached.

It decided that "the combination of the shape, the colours and the pleated ribbon with a small bell are not sufficiently different" from the wrapping of other chocolate products, specifically rabbits.

Lindt disputed its findings, arguing that only three such products were on the market and that its own chocolate bunny was registered in as many as 15 EU states.

Last year, Lindt successfully persuaded an Austrian court to stop rival chocolate-maker Hauswirth manufacturing Easter bunnies that resembled the Lindt product.

But the European Court of Justice, in its judgement on Thursday, decided that the Swiss chocolate maker had "failed to establish that the mark has inherent distinctive character and that that was the case throughout the European Union".

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