Trademark infringement:
say what you see?

19th December

A short but sweet piece in The Guardian today about the legal case brought by Haribo (owner of gummy bears) against Lindt (maker of a gold foil wrapped ‘Teddy’). To quote the article:

‘In the autumn German confectioner Haribo launched legal action accusing Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Sprüngli of copying its trademark on the Gold Bear name after it launched the gold foil-wrapped Lindt Teddy. Haribo, which invented gummy bears almost a century ago, said the two products would confuse shoppers – even though one is a jelly sweet and the other chocolate. The normal Haribo gummy bear package features a cartoon bear wearing a red ribbon around its neck, while the Lindt product features a bear caricature printed on gold foil, with a real red ribbon wrapped around its neck.’


Haribo have won the case. As an armchair lawyer, do you agree with the verdict? It seems to me that a simplified bear shape suitable for a mould is going to come out looking pretty similar, scale notwithstanding. And Lindt, with its gold bunny, has an equity of its own giving little red scarves to its animals. It’s quite right for Haribo to want to protect their trademark, but I can’t really imagine there was much risk of mistaken identity here. If there was, perhaps Haribo might want to consider the strength of its branding, as well as the strength of its legal argument.

Part of the case turns on the fact that while the Lindt product is not called a golden bear, it is thus named by consumers. This is partly a case of them saying what they see and partly because of the aforementioned gold bunny. I guess this is a good example of pictures speaking louder than words and indeed driving the words we use.

Slightly off the topic, I have always thought the Australian match brand Redheads was the perfect example of a name and design that turned the generic physical properties of the product into something truly ownable.

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