Dr Monika Żuraw

Reindeer released into the wild

The General Court of the European Union in Luxembourg has upheld a decision by the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market in Alicante refusing to register the three-dimensional shape of a reindeer in a Christmas ribbon as a trademark.

Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli AG v OHIM (Case T-337/08), judgment dated 17 December 2010

reniferLindt, a Swiss confectioner that produces numerous chocolate products to mark the various holidays, is a popular brand throughout Europe. One seasonal favourite is a 3D chocolate reindeer in a gold wrapper, decked out in a red bow with a tiny bell.

The court held that the Lindt reindeer lacks distinctive character. While the chocolate figurine sold by Lindt is not exactly a true likeness of the arctic ruminant, nonetheless from the perspective of the consumer the figurine alone does not convey the commercial origin of the goods from a specific producer. The court found that the chocolate reindeer did not differ in any significant way from other, similar products on the market.

Although the court did not come right out and say so, it seemed to recognise that holiday symbols should remain in the public domain. As the court stated, “The Christmas reindeer is known throughout Europe.”