Germany's Federal Court of Justice said Lindt did not violate German-based Haribo's KG's trademarks or have an unfair imitation of the company’s “Gold Bear” logo.
Haribo began using this logo in the 1960s; Lindt started using its bear in 2011, which it said it drew from traditional golden bunnies that already existed.
The case, explained
Lauren Somers, trade mark attorney at intellectual property law firm HGF, told ConfectioneryNews that contrary to many press reports, this case was not about a comparison of two shape trademarks. Instead, Haribo based their infringement claim on the registration of the word “goldbear,” adding that the company had claimed both the word and the cartoon 2-D bear.
“As with many trade mark disputes, the dispute centers on a conflict between competitors trying to carve out niches in the market,” Somers said. “Haribo obviously places value in their bear sweets and potentially their shape and tried to stop an allegedly similar product staying on the market.
“The [court] obviously did not agree with this contention, and Haribo were found not to have the rights to sustain their initially successful claim.”
This seems to be the end of the road for Haribo’s trademark infringement claim, Somers said.
Why this ruling?
The German Federal Court said the “Golden Bear” brand of Haribo is well known and the goods of both parties are very similar, the likelihood of confusion of a mental link between the two designs is missing.
“This was not a comparison between two shapes,” Somers said. “The BGH rejected that contention, stating that there must be a very clear connection between the words and shape for infringement to be found. In short, the BGH found that consumers would simply not naturally refer to the Lindt bear as GOLDBEAR.”
After initially ruling in favor of Haribo, there has been a consistent back and forth between these two parties since 2012. In April 2014, the 6th Civil Division of the Court of Appeal in Cologne overturned a regional court ruling, thereby overturning Haribo’s infringement case against Lindt.
‘No similarity’ between the bear and teddy
In a statement from the German court, translated to English, the court said the names of each product are obviously different, as Haribo uses “Golden Bears” and Lindt uses names such as “Teddy” Or “Chocolate Bear”.
“With regard to another figurative mark of the applicant, which shows a bear standing figure, it also lacks a sufficient resemblance to the characters wrapped in gold foil chocolate [from] the defendant,” the court said in the translated statement.
In addition, Lindt’s name and logo were placed in prominent position on the chocolate bears, making it much more likely that people would connect the bears to Lindt’s similar line of chocolates, said the statement. For example, the company has a popular foil-wrapped Easter bunny, something which court believed consumers would be more likely to associate with Lindt’s chocolate bear.