The foil-wrapped chocolate bunny made by premium chocolate maker Lindt & Sprüngli is celebrating a legal victory, after Switzerland’s highest court ruled that it deserves protection from copycat products, including one made by Lidl.
The federal court in Lausanne has ordered the German discount retailer to stop selling its version of the rabbit-shaped confectionery and to destroy all its remaining stock.
Lindt’s chocolate bunny – wrapped in gold-coloured foil, sporting a red ribbon and small bell, and sitting in a squatting posture – is sold in various sizes and is one of the Swiss brand’s bestselling products, particularly around Easter.
The federal court’s ruling overturned one made last year by a Swiss commercial court, which found against Lindt.
The chocolate maker submitted surveys as part of its case showing that its Gold Bunny was well known to the public, the federal court said, adding that that the Lindt and Lidl rabbits were likely to be confused, even though there were some differences between them.
The court ruled that destruction of Lidl’s stock of bunnies was “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, suggesting they could be melted down and reused somehow.
Surprisingly, Lindt’s chocolate bunny is no stranger to courtroom battles. Lindt has been to court multiple times in recent years to protect its popular treat, of which it sells tens of millions each year.
The company applied for a trademark on the three-dimensional shape of its bunny in 2000, which was granted the following year.
The issue of whether a chocolate bunny can be trademarked subsequently came before Europe’s top court, the European court of justice, after a long battle between Lindt and Austrian rival chocolate maker Hauswirth, which also made gold-wrapped chocolate rabbits with a ribbon around its neck.
Hauswirth was later ordered by a Vienna court to stop producing its bunnies.
Germany’s federal court ruled in 2021 that the golden shade of the bunny’s foil wrapping had trademark protection.
• This article was amended on 29 September 2022. The decision in the Lidl case was handed down by the Swiss federal court in Lausanne, not Zurich as an earlier version said.