Chocolatiers fail to get EU trademark for goods

LUXEMBOURG — Bunnies, mice and reindeer aren't protected species when they're made of chocolate, a European Union court ruled Friday.

Lindt & Spruengli, the world's largest maker of premium chocolate, and August Storck lost separate court challenges to get EU trademark protection for their chocolate Easter bunnies, mice and reindeer.

"A rabbit, a reindeer and a small bell are typical shapes in which chocolate and chocolate goods are presented" particularly "at Easter and Christmas," the European Union General Court, the region's second-highest tribunal, decided. The shapes "are 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. The EU trademark agency based in Alicante, Spain, in 2008 said the shapes were too common.

"This now means Lindt can't use an EU trademark right to stop other companies" from making similar chocolate bunnies, Olaf Gillert, a lawyer specializing in trademark law, said.