Berlin Zoo Retains Rights to Knut the Polar Bear

     (CN) – Former Berlin Zoo resident Knut the Polar Bear will remain the trademarked property of the zoo, an EU court ruled Monday.
     Knut garnered worldwide attention in 2006 after his mother abandoned him and his brother on a rock in their exhibit at the Berlin Zoo.
     Zoo officials trademarked his name as “Knud” and – before his drowning death following a seizure – the bear netted the zoo over $6.5 million in profits from the sale of Knut-related merchandise.
     In 2007, British company Knut IP Management attempted to register “Knut – der Eisbar” (Knut – the polar bear) with the EU’s trademark office, OHIM. The company planned a line of paper goods, toys, games and apparel centered on their polar bear Knut.
     The Berlin Zoo opposed the application, citing the obvious likelihood of confusion between Knut der Eisbar and the real Knud, particularly in Germany. OHIM upheld the zoo’s opposition and rejected Knut IP’s application.
     On appeal, the General Court of the European Union agreed. In its opinion – published in German and French only – the court concluded that the zoo’s bear and Knut IP’s offerings are not only similar, they are identical.
     “The disputed signs, considered as a whole, have major similarities,” the court said in a statement. “As a result of the fact that the relevant public will remember in particular the identical beginning of the trade marks, in this case, the elements ‘knud’ and ‘knut’, OHIM could validly conclude that there does not exist, on the part of the relevant public, a sufficient difference between those signs allowing any likelihood of confusion between the earlier mark and the mark applied for to be avoided.”
     Knut IP Management has two months to appeal the lower court’s decision to the Court of Justice.

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