* Lindt, Riegelein fighting case since 2000
* EU court already ruled against Lindt last year
* Lindt determined to defend gold-wrapped bunnies (Adds Lindt comment)
ZURICH, March 28 (Reuters) - Swiss premium chocolate maker Lindt & Spruengli has lost a court battle to protect its gold foil-wrapped Easter bunnies from imitation by a German rival.
Lindt, which traces its origins to a Zurich confectionery shop set up in the 1840s, has been fighting German chocolate maker Confiserie Riegelein since 2000 to try to stop it producing similar chocolate bunnies.
But Germany’s Federal Court of Justice rejected a final appeal by Lindt & Spruengli on Thursday.
“We are very glad that this case has found a happy ending for us after some 12 years,” Peter Riegelein, head of the family-owned German business, said in a statement.
“The sitting gold-wrapped bunny has been a firm part of our offering for at least a half century,” he said. “Now it is finally clear that it can stay as it is.”
Lindt will respect the decision even though it does not share the court’s judicial interpretation, a spokeswoman said.
“Lindt & Spruengli invests substantial amounts into advertising and promotion to further increase the degree of brand awareness,” she said. “We will continue to defend our Lindt gold bunny in the future whenever necessary.”
Last year, the European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) upheld a decision of the EU trademarks agency OHIM, which rejected Lindt’s application for a trademark of its sitting bunny shapes wrapped in gold foil with a red ribbon bow tie.
Earlier last year, however, an Austrian court ruled that family-owned rival Hauswirth could no longer produce Easter bunnies that look like those made by Lindt. (Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by David Holmes and Elaine Hardcastle)