The three years long dispute between the Swiss chocolatier,Lindt & Sprüngli AG and Haribo GmbH & Co. pertaining to visual trademark infringement of the three dimensional chocolate bears has finally concluded in favor of Lindt. The bear shaped chocolates were alleged as an infringement by Haribo’s of its trademark “Goldbären” (Gold Bear). Haribo, the German gummy bear giant which invented gummy bears in the 1920’s contended that consumers are likely to get confused between the two, despite Lindt’s products made of chocolate and gummy bear being a jelly sweet.
It was argued that “gold bears” and “golden bears” are well-known marks in Germany. An ordinary Haribo packaging depicts the classic golden bear donning a red ribbon around its neck. On the other hand Lindt argued that the chocolate bears introduced in 2011, were inspired by Easter hot-selling ‘Gold Bunny’chocolates. Both are wrapped in golden foil along with a red ribbon.
The German regional court decided in favor of Haribo and prohibited sales of Lindt’s bear shaped chocolates. It was found that Lindt’s products were a pictorial representation of Haribo’s word mark. On appeal, the court’s decision was overruled and granted in favor of Lindt, stating that the two products bore no similarity. It was held that chocolate teddies cannot be confused with Haribo’s jelly sweets.
When the dispute reached the Federal Court of Justice, the same was reiterated and stated that Lindt’s gold foil-wrapped chocolate bears, which it sells as Lindt chocolate teddies, did not infringe Haribo’s marks for “golden bears” and “gold bears,” which is used for its well-known line of gummy bears in gold packaging.The court said that terms such as “teddy”, “chocolate bear” or “chocolate teddy” could be applied to the product just as well as “gold bear.” It was neither a violation of Haribo’s trademark or an imitation of its jelly sweets.The court also noted that Lindt’s name and logo were very prominently placed on the Swiss company’s chocolate bears, and that consumers were more likely to connect the bears to Lindt’s own well-established chocolate lines, like its foiled-wrapped Easter bunnies.”It’s not sufficient that the trademarked word is just one of several obvious names to describe the product form,” the court said in a statement. For the claim to be granted without meeting stricter criteria would open up the danger of “product design monopolization” in the arena of three-dimensional product forms.
Press Release of Federal Court available at <http://juris.bundesgerichtshof.de/cgibin/rechtsprechung/document.py?Gericht=bgh&Art=pm&Datum=2015&Sort=3&nr=72297&pos=2&anz=164> (Last viewed on 24 September 2015)