Swiss Lindt & Sprüngli AG and German August Storck AG were hoping Santa would come up big with a trademark victory in a European Union court, but instead the judges played Scrooge and shot down their requests for trademarks on popular holiday chocolate shapes.
The two chocolate makers had requested trademark protection for various holiday chocolates including a reindeer, Easter rabbit, a mouse, and a bell with a red ribbon; they wanted to be sure that only their brands of holiday treats would be available in those designs for EU consumers.
But the General Court of the European Union in Luxembourg found that the chocolates “are devoid of any distinctive character,” making them ineligible for protection through trademark law. The general shapes, ruled the court, are “typical” of what can be found on shelves throughout holiday seasons.
A quick search did reveal that Lindt & Sprüngli do have a U.S. trademark on its rabbit described as follows:
The color(s) gold, brown and red is/are claimed as a feature of the mark. The mark consists of a configuration of a bunny in the color gold with brown inner ears, whiskers, eyes, nose and individual brown stripes on its feet to indicate toes as well as a red ribbon tied in a bow around its neck.
Both companies are considering whether to appeal the judgment. What do you think about these chocolates? Should the chocolate companies’ designs be legally protected?