Why Swiss chocolatier Lindt beat German Lidl in legal battle over Easter Bunnies

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

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

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

The court, which overturned a Swiss commercial court ruling against Lindt and in favor of two Swiss units of Lidl last year, also said Lindt’s product was protected by Swiss trademark law.

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

Let’s take a closer look:

Lindt, which has produced its “Gold Bunny” since 1952, manufactures over 160 million bunnies a year.

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 each year were lined up, they would span from the company’s headquarters in Kilchberg, Switzerland, to San Diego, California.

According FortuneLindt in 2001 gained brand approval on its bunny shape.

According Business Intern Africa, Lidl offers cheaper alternatives to branded items.

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

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

The battle began in 2017 when Lindt approached the court to stop Lidl from selling its chocolate bunnies wrapped in gold foil (or any other colored foil), according to The New York Times.

Why Swiss chocolatier Lindt beat Germany's Lidl in court battle over Easter Bunnies
A logo at the entrance to 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 is also wrapped in gold.

According The New York Timesthe court, in considering whether Lidl had infringed on Lindt’s trademark, considered whether the shapes were protected by law.

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

“The destruction is proportionate, especially since it does not necessarily mean that the chocolate as such should be destroyed,” he said in a summary of his verdict.

Jonathan Drucker, former general counsel for Belgian chocolatier Godiva, said The New York Times Lindt was “an 800-pound gorilla in the chocolate industry”.

Lindt said in a statement: “This verdict is an important step in protecting Lindt’s golden rabbit in its Swiss home market.”

According 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 stock in Switzerland to destroy,” Lidl’s statement read.

Other Bunny Battles

This is not the first time Lindt has taken legal action against companies making similar products.

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

Germany’s federal court has ruled the tone of the gold foil used to wrap its chocolate bunnies was trademark protected, citing market research presented by the company which showed 70% of respondents associated the golden tone to the Lindt rabbit.

A Munich court had previously dismissed Lindt’s claims.

Lindt & Spruengli said at the time that it had no plans to force another chocolate bunnies maker out of the market, but was defending itself against copycats exploiting the reputation it had built for its product over the years.

“There are many ways to design Easter bunnies that do not infringe the rights of Lindt & Spruengli,” said a spokesperson for the company, which raised its full-year forecast after reporting strong sales. Easter this week.

According The Guardianthe European Court of Justice also heard a case between Lindt and rival Austrian chocolatier Hauswirth (which also made chocolate bunnies wrapped in gold with a ribbon around their necks).

A court in Vienna then ordered Hauswirth to stop producing its rabbits.

With contributions from agencies

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Virginia C. Taylor