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Sunday, 23 November 2008

Temperatures rise in ECJ chocolate bunny melt-down

Via the IPKat's friend Stephanie Bodoni (Bloomberg) comes news of the fight over Lindt & Sprüngli AG's Community trade mark right to a chocolate Easter bunny wrapped in gold foil. This right was gained "honestly and fairly", said Lindt, and it should be able to block the making of copies by competitors, Lindt told the Court of Justice of the European Communities. Lindt, Switzerland's oldest chocolate maker, is denying an Austrian competitor's claims that it acquired its EU-wide protection in bad faith at a hearing this week in Case C-529/07.

Lindt's trade mark is being used to prevent the Austrian company Franz Hauswirth GmbH from making products that are allegedly confusingly similar to its 56-year-old trade mark rabbit, which is wrapped in gold foil with a bell and wears a red ribbon around its neck. "Here is a product that's been around for some 50 years and sold about 20 million times in the EU in 2000, when we applied for the trade mark", said Gesine Hild, Lindt's lawyer. "The company acted in good faith when it sought the right to exclude the use of that same product by others".

Franz Hauswirth GmbH has been making chocolate rabbits since 1960 in Austria. It faces the stark option of having to change the look of its own bunnies or to cancel Lindt's EU trade mark registration. Hild said that, while Lindt was aware of competing products in Europe when it applied for the EU trade mark in 2000, it didn't know of the Austrian company's products,. Three years later Lindt learned of Hauswirth's bunny at a fair in Switzerland where Hauswirth presented them as "a new product".

The ruling is expected in around a year from now.

More on the Battle of the Bunnies from the IPKat here and here

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