We love chocolate here in the Fresh kitchen and when it comes to chocolate, a few particular brands stand out. Of course Cadbury is divine, so is Whittakers. Yep, Nestle is pretty nice. But the creme de la creme? Lindt. But there’s drama afoot about the famous Lindt bunny…

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has been brought into a long-running legal dispute over the famous Lindt chocolate bunny. The battle is between Switzerland’s Lindt & Sprungli, maker of the bunnies, and Austrian competitor Hauswirth.

Lindt began making chocolate rabbits — distinctive with their gold foil wrapping, red ribbon and bell — in the 1950s and produces millions a year. It trademarked the design in 2001 and has pursued smaller competitors across Europe, accusing them of copying its design. This week the ECJ was asked to consider whether Lindt had acted in “bad faith” when it registered its trademark.

Hauswirth, a small Austrian chocolate maker that also produces a gold-wrapped chocolate rabbit, had challenged the validity of Lindt’s trademark, arguing that chocolate rabbits have been around for decades. It accused Lindt of using its dominant market position to kill competition. Lindt took action against Hauswirth in 2004 and the case has been in the Austrian courts since. It was referred to the ECJ after the Austrian Supreme Court sought guidance on whether knowing, or being in a position to know, that a trademarked subject is similar to one being used by a rival constituted bad faith.

The ECJ said the Austrian court should take into account whether or not a company knew that others were producing similar goods when it applied for a trademark and whether it was seeking to push rivals out of the market. It did not give a specific opinion on whether Lindt’s trademark was obtained in bad faith. The Austrian courts will now decide.

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