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Lindt Can’t Seek Trademark on Chocolate Bunnies, EU Court Says

Lindt & Spruengli AG, the world’s largest maker of premium chocolate, can’t seek a trademark for chocolate rabbits with a red ribbon, according to a ruling from the EU’s top court.

The European Court of Justice backed an earlier refusal from the EU trademark office that stopped Lindt from winning trademark protection for a chocolate rabbit with a red band.

“The shape of a chocolate rabbit with a red ribbon cannot be registered as a community trade mark,” according to a statement from the Luxembourg-based tribunal. “The Court of Justice confirms that this shape is devoid of any distinctive character.”

Lindt, based in Kilchberg, Switzerland, has since 2004 failed to get EU-wide trademark protection for the shapes of a plain chocolate bunny and chocolate bunnies and reindeer wrapped in gold foil with red ribbon around their necks. It also failed to get protection for the ribbon and attached bell. The EU trademark agency based in Alicante, Spain, in 2008 said the shapes were too common.

Lindt didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The chocolate maker in 2001 gained a trademark valid across the 27-nation EU for a chocolate Easter bunny wrapped in gold foil emblazoned with the word “Lindt” and bearing a red ribbon. In today’s case Lindt was seeking protection for the same bunny, minus the name, which would have given it wider rights.

Lindt already used its existing EU trademark to block an Austrian chocolate maker from selling products similar to its own 58-year-old Easter rabbit. This led to a dispute that resulted in a ruling by the EU’s top court that the trademark can be challenged if the Austrian chocolate maker proves Lindt registered it in bad faith.

Today’s ruling from the Luxembourg-based tribunal is binding.

The case is: C-98/11 P Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Spruengli v OHIM

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