Why Swiss chocolate maker Lindt beat Germany’s Lidl in court battle over Easter bunnies

Lindt’s Easter bunny comes in gold foil with a red ribbon and bell around its neck, while Lidl’s chocolate bunny also is also wrapped in gold. The Swiss chocolatier produces over 160 million bunnies annually, while the German chain offers cheaper alternatives to branded items

FP Explainers October 07, 2022 21:58:18 IST
Why Swiss chocolate maker Lindt beat Germany’s Lidl in court battle over Easter bunnies

Lindt has been manufacturing its chocolate bunnies since 1952. Image courtesy: Lindt-spruengli.com

The battle over chocolate bunnies has ended with a victory for chocolatier Lindt with Switzerland’s highest court ordering German discount chain Lidl to halt sales of its product in the country and destroy its stock.

The court said surveys by Lindt showed the company’s Easter bunny, which it has been producing since 1952, was well known to the public and that the two products were likely to be confused even though there were some differences between them.

The court, overturning a Swiss commercial court’s ruling against Lindt and in favour of two Swiss units of Lidl last year, also said Lindt’s product is protected under Swiss trademark law.

This, after Germany’s federal court ruled last year that Lindt’s Easter bunny had trademark protection.

Let’s take a closer look at the case:

Lindt, which has been producing its ‘Gold Bunny’ since 1952, manufactures over 160 million bunnies annually.

Lindt & Sprungli employs approximately 14,600 people worldwide. In 2021, its turnover amounted to nearly 4.65 billion.

The company on its website claims that if all the Lindt chocolate bunnies sold annually were lined up, they would stretch from the company’s headquarters in Switzerland’s Kilchberg to San Diego in California.

As per Fortune, Lindt in 2001 won trademark approval on its bunny shape.

As per Business Insider Africa, Lidl is offers cheaper alternatives to branded items.

The supermarket has  175 stores in the US as well as thousands across Europe.

Lindt and Lidl have been fighting in court over their chocolate Easter bunnies for years.

The battle first kicked off in 2017 when Lindt approached the court to stop Lidl from selling its chocolate bunnies wrapped in gold foil (or any other colour foil), as per The New York Times.

Why Swiss chocolate maker Lindt beat Germanys Lidl in court battle over Easter bunnies
A logo at the entrance of a Lidl discount supermarket. AFP

Lindt and Sprüngli’s Easter bunny comes in gold foil with a red ribbon and bell around its neck, while Lidl’s chocolate bunny also is also wrapped in gold.

As per The New York Times, the court, in examining whether Lidl infringed upon Lindt’s trademark, considered whether the shapes are protected under the law.

“Given the overall impression, Lidl’s rabbits have clear associations with the shape of Lindt’s rabbit,” the court’s statement said. “In the public’s mind, they are indistinguishable.”

“Destruction is proportionate, especially as it does not necessarily mean that the chocolate as such would have to be destroyed,” it said in a summary of its verdict.

Jonathan Drucker, a former general counsel at Belgian chocolate maker Godiva told The New York Times Lindt was “an 800-pound gorilla in the chocolate industry.”

Lindt said in a statement: “This verdict is a milestone for the protection of Lindt’s golden bunny in its Swiss home market.”

As per The New York Times, Lidl said in a statement that no chocolate bunnies would be harmed.

“The chocolate bunny in question is a seasonal item, which is why we currently have no stocks in Switzerland that need to be destroyed,” Lidl’s statement said.

Other bunny battles

This isn’t the first time Lindt has taken legal recourse against companies producing similar products.

In July 2021, a German court ruled for Lindt against German confiserie Heilemann, owned by Viba Sweets, which also sells a sitting bunny in golden foil.

Germany’s federal court said the tone of the gold foil used to wrap its chocolate bunnies had trademark protection, citing market research presented by the company that showed that 70 per cent of respondents associated the gold tone with the Lindt bunny.

A court in Munich had previously rejected Lindt’s claims.

Lindt & Spruengli at the time said it did not intend to force another chocolate bunny manufacturer out of the market, but was defending itself against copycats exploiting the reputation it had built for its product over years.

“There are many ways to design Easter bunnies that don’t infringe Lindt & Spruengli’s rights,” said a spokesperson for the company that raised its full-year guidance after reporting strong Easter sales this week.

As per The Guardian, the European Court of Justice also heard a case between Lindt and Austrian rival chocolate maker Hauswirth (which also made gold-wrapped chocolate rabbits with a ribbon around its neck).

A Vienna court later ordered Hauswirth to stop producing its bunnies.

With inputs from agencies

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