By Kirsti Knolle and Silke Koltrowitz
BERLIN/ZURICH (Reuters) -Lindt & Spruengli’s gold foil-wrapped chocolate Easter bunny scored a legal win on Thursday as Germany’s federal court ruled its gold tone had trademark protection.
The Swiss premium chocolate maker has been fighting many court battles over the years to protect one of its best-selling products that, according to the federal court, crossed German counters more than 500 million times in the past 30 years.
After failing to get comprehensive trademark protection for the shape of its sitting bunny, Lindt changed its tactics, trying to protect the shade of the foil instead, a strategy that seems to start bearing fruit.
Germany’s federal court said the tone of the gold foil used to wrap its chocolate bunnies had trademark protection, citing market research presented by the company that showed that 70% of respondents associated the gold tone with the Lindt bunny.
A court in Munich had previously rejected Lindt’s claims against German confiserie Heilemann, owned by Viba Sweets, that also sells a sitting bunny in golden foil. The appeals court will now have to reexamine the case.
Lindt & Spruengli said it did not intend to force another chocolate bunny manufacturer out of the market, but was defending itself against copycats exploiting the reputation it had built for its product over years.
“There are many ways to design Easter bunnies that don’t infringe Lindt & Spruengli’s rights,” said a spokesperson for the company that raised its full-year guidance after reporting strong Easter sales this week.
Viba Sweets was not immediately available to comment.
(Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Michael Shields)