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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 April 2006, 11:35 GMT 12:35 UK
Row over Easter bunny turns sour
By Imogen Foulkes
BBC News, Bern

A bespoke Lindt Gold Bunny
Lindt recently made a bespoke gold bunny for Harrods in London
In many parts of the world, people celebrate Easter Sunday by giving chocolate - chocolate eggs, especially chocolate Easter bunnies.

But in Switzerland, a row over who owns the right to produce a specific Easter bunny has turned the day a little sour.

Lindt says only it has the right to make its trademark golden Easter bunny, with a red ribbon around its neck.

It is challenging Austrian company Hauswirth, which has been making similar ones for 50 years.

Chocolate company Lindt has been making its bunny since the early 1950s and it is hugely successful. It sells 60m of them every year.

To protect the design, the company copyrighted it in the year 2000.

"Our bunny is magical, majestic even", Lindt's managers say, "and we will protect it."

There is just one problem, other chocolate makers make Easter bunnies too. And the small Austrian company Hauswirth's golden bunnies have, yes, red ribbons around their necks.

The two rivals are now squaring up against each other in court. Lawyers for Lindt say the Hauswirth bunny must change its colours.

They have suggested bronze wrapping instead of gold and a green ribbon instead of red. Hauswirth refused and lost the first round in court, meaning the Hauswirth bunnies could not be sold.

In frustration, the company began giving them away, delighting thousands of children across Austria for whom Easter came early. Now another day in court has been scheduled but not until June.

Let's hope the chocolate hasn't melted by then.

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