Chocolate Bunnies, Reindeer Escape EU Trademark

Gold-wrapped chocolate rabbits and reindeer remain free to roam the EU, unshackled by trademarks chocolate producers have tried to impose on them.

BRUSSELS (AP) -- Gold-wrapped chocolate Easter rabbits and Christmas reindeer remain free to roam the European Union, unshackled by trademarks some chocolate producers have tried to impose on them.

Swiss manufacturer Lindt & Spruengli AG and Germany's August Storck AG wanted to register chocolate figures -- including a rabbit, a mouse and a bell with a red ribbon -- to make sure only their versions could appear in Europe's chocolate shops and supermarkets.

But the General Court of the European Union ruled Friday that the dainty sweets "are devoid of any distinctive character" that would make them worthy of trademark protection.

The EU's top court ruled from Luxembourg that "a rabbit, a reindeer and a small bell are typical shapes in which chocolate and chocolate goods are presented at certain times of the year, in particular at Easter and Christmas."

Ahead of the Easter holidays, Lindt's golden bunnies, complete with a red ribbon holding a small golden bell, crowd the shelves of supermarkets in several European countries including Germany and France. Together with chocolate eggs, the foil-wrapped rabbits are popular treats for kids' Easter baskets.

For Christmas, Lindt has two gold-wrapped smiling reindeer with a red ribbon around their necks, pulling a chocolate Santa in a sled -- and enticing millions of children across Europe.

Lindt had sought a trademark on the figures from the EU's trademark office, but the body refused, claiming they did not stand out enough. Lindt and August Storck challenged the ruling before the EU's highest court.

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