Not everyone is allowed to make chocolate Easter bunnies and wrap them in gold foil – because that’s what the Lindt & Sprüngli company values with its trademark protection “Lindt Gold Bunny”. This was decided by the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) and thus confirmed a corresponding legal action by the Swiss manufacturer against a confectionery in the Allgäu. The Munich Higher Regional Court, to which the federal judges referred the case, must now decide whether this violated trademark protection in a specific case.
The “Lindt Gold Bunny”, adorned with a red bow and bells around the neck, is well known. Over the past 30 years, Lindt & Sprüngli has sold over 500 million copies in Germany alone. It is said to be the best-selling Easter Bunny in Germany and its market share is 40%. He has been wearing gold for almost 70 years.
Three years ago, Confiserie Heilemann in the small town of Woringen in the Allgäu also sold a chocolate bunny wrapped in gold foil. Lindt took legal action against this and tried to protect the color of the Golden Rabbit exclusively for himself. The Swiss company’s argument at a glance: The combination of chocolate bunny and gold is what most people think of their product. This is why a competitor cannot just sit on it and try to make customers believe that they have in front of them an original “golden bunny”.
But that did not affect the higher regional court in Munich, where the lawsuit was dismissed a year ago. Customers not only looked at the color of the product, but also the shape, judged the Munich judges – and the rabbits of the Allgäu competition would see it differently, as their own perception was also convinced. And unlike other companies that use special colors for their products, Lindt only uses gold for one, namely the rabbit, not the entire product line. The civil judges of the BGH have now rejected this argument and allowed the appeal of the Swiss group. Your central claim: Since 70% of people in a survey gave the Lindt product the color gold, it got “circulation approval,” as lawyers call it.
The dispute is not the first Lindt to ban all overly similar competing products from store shelves. In 2013, the group bowed to the BGH against the Confiserie Riegelein in Middle Franconia, which also offered a golden rabbit. At the time, the question was whether Lindt’s Golden Rabbit had trademark protection as a whole. With the Allgäuer Confiserie, there was only a dispute over the golden tone. Lindt also registered the color mark “Gold (Pantone Premium Metallics coated 10126 C)” with the German Patent and Trademark Office for Chocolate Rabbits in May 2017. Confiserie Heilemann has requested deletion, this proceeding has been more recently before the Federal Patent Court.
Lindt & Sprüngli only announced on Tuesday that it had increased its sales by a sixth in the first half of 2021 – to around 1.4 billion euros; the profit amounted to nearly 130 million euros. The reason was “that the Easter business, which is important for the company, has recovered considerably and even exceeded expectations”.
With material from the press agency dpa