Easter Bunny IP Battles and Chocolate Trade Mark Shapes

Chocolate bunnies are synonymous with Easter and we’re looking forward to consuming as many as possible this Easter long weekend.

Did you know that the famous Lindt chocolate bunny spent years in court defending its trade mark rights? And that there are registered chocolate trade mark shapes?

 

Battle of the Chocolate Bunnies

Each year across our social media we share the chocolatey trade mark story (from 2013) involving Lindt and Sprüngli.

After more than a decade in court, Swiss chocolate firm Lindt lost its Easter bunny trade mark case against German competitor Confiserie Riegelein.

 

A side by side comparison of the chocolate bunnies.

 

Lindt and Sprüngli had attempted to finalise a trade mark of their well known chocolate Easter bunny, wrapped in gold foil with a red bow tie, saying at the time; “the sitting gold-wrapped bunny has been a firm part of our offering for at least half a century.” The Lindt chocolatier brand has existed since the 1840s.

After Lindt’s fourth and final appearance in court, the German courts had to decide whether it was legally possible to register a product, which was in general use for decades, as a trade mark. Ultimately they decided no.

Confiserie Riegelein was the only defendant left to face up to Lindt in the courts after a number of smaller chocolate-making firms gave in to pressure from the Swiss giant to cease making chocolate bunny replicas.

Lindt has continued to defend its strong brand over the years, one recent case towards the end of 2022 making global news. This time, Lindt sued German discount retailer Lidl for replicating their chocolate bunnies. The Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland sided with Lindt and found that Lidl’s chocolate bunnies could be confused with Lindt’s chocolate bunnies, which are protected under Swiss trademark law.

 

The court decreed that Lidl could no longer sell its bunnies in Switzerland and ordered Lidl to destroy any chocolate bunnies it had in stock.

Lindt calls its chocolate bunnies “one of the most famous Lindt chocolate products” and an “iconic Easter fixture.”

“Today, more than 160 million Lindt Gold Bunnies are hopping around the world per year,” the company says on its website, adding that if all the Lindt chocolate bunnies sold annually were lined up, they would stretch from the company’s headquarters in Kilchberg, Switzerland, to San Diego, Calif.

 

Chocolate Trade Mark Shapes

According to IP Australia, a shape trade mark is a three dimensional shape used to distinguish the goods or services of one trader from those of other traders.

Examples of existing shape trade marks include toothbrushes, biscuits, chocolates, pens, bottles and other packaging. Shapes with significant functional features are difficult to register.

A shape already in common use and required in the normal course of trade can’t be protected. You can’t gain a trade mark for a normal wine bottle or a standard shoe box, for example.

Check out some trademarked chocolate shapes below (you might even be eating some this weekend!)

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Easter to all our clients, colleagues and social media followers!