Austria rival told to hop off in Lindt bunny battle

Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:20am EDT
 
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VIENNA (Reuters) - An Austrian chocolate company has to stop making Easter bunnies that look like those made by Switzerland's Lindt & Spruengli, a court has ruled after an eight-year legal battle.

Family-owned Hauswirth will now seek ways to change the appearance of the chocolate rabbits it has been making for half a century, co-owner Peter Hauswirth said, suggesting it could move its brand name from the bottom to a more prominent spot.

Both chocolatiers have made the distinctive sitting bunny shapes wrapped in gold foil with a red ribbon - in Hauswirth's case, red and white - bow tie. An Austrian court has now ruled the similarity could confuse consumers.

The Wirtschaftsblatt newspaper cited a lawyer for Hauswirth as saying the company had to swallow 56,000 euros ($74,300) in legal costs and could face claims for extra compensation.

Hauswirth's website on Monday showed a bunny-shaped black silhouette with the words "banned by Lindt & Spruengli AG" next to Christmas figurines.

Lindt has said Hauswirth's bunnies are a knock-off of their own version and violate its EU trademark.

Hauswirth argued Lindt was using its trademark to quash competition unfairly. It said chocolate bunnies traditionally come wrapped in gold foil and that it is normal for the shapes to look similar as they are based on animals.

Peter Hauswirth put the best face on things, saying his company no longer sold many of the now-banned bunnies and adding: "I will get over it."

($1 = 0.7540 euros)

(Reporting by Michael Shields, editing by Paul Casciato)

 
An Easter basket with a chocolate bunny is pictured at the Hauswirth confectioner factory in Kittsee, some 60 km (37 miles) east of Vienna. Hauswirth has to stop making chocolate Easter bunnies that look like those made by Switzerland's Lindt & Spruengli, a court ruled March 26, 2012, after an eight-year legal battle. The Austrian family-owned chocolate company will now seek ways to change the appearance of the chocolate rabbits it has been making for half a century, co-owner Peter Hauswirth said. Both chocolatiers have made the distinctive sitting bunny shapes wrapped in gold foil with a red ribbon - in Hauswirth's case, red and white - bow tie. Lindt has said Hauswirth's bunnies are a knock-off of their own version and violate its EU trademark. Hauswirth argued chocolate bunnies traditionally come wrapped in gold foil and that it is normal for the shapes to look similar as they are based on animals. Picture taken March 24, 2011. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner