An Un-Bear-able Trademark Suit.

Who would have thought that cute cover model, web sensation and all around tourist attraction Knut would be at the center of an international trademark dispute.

The History
Knut was born at the Berlin Zoo on 5 December 2006, but was rejected by his mother for unknown reasons.  Zoo keepers rescued Knut and spent the next 44 days struggling to keep Knut alive in an inspiring around the clock vigil.

Due to some controversial German court rulings about humans raising animals, some activists called for Knut to be euthanized drawing international attention.  Public support swelled and the Zoo refused such calls.  During his first three years, Knut drew as many as 400,000 visitors a day to the Zoo and was huge driver of Knut related goods.

However, it was not meant to last.

On 19 March 2011, at the age of four, Knut collapsed and died in his enclosure from encephalitis, a swelling of the brain likely triggered by an infection.

The Controversy
In 2007 the U.K.-based Knut IP Management filed a trademark application for “Knut — Der Eisbar,” which means “Knut — The Polar Bear” in German for use on “paper and cardboard goods, clothing, shoes and helmets, sports articles and activities. The zoo, which already owned the slight variation “Knud” for use on similar products requested that the application be rejected.

The Results
The EU General Court affirmed a decision by the Office of Harmonization for the Internal Market (OHIM), which registers Community Trade Marks in the European Union) to bar the registration.

The General Court stated: “As a result, first, of the similarity of the signs KNUD and KNUT – DER EISBÄR, and, secondly, of the identity or at least similarity of the goods and services at issue, there exists indeed a likelihood of confusion in German-speaking regions.”

How Can I Help?

As this case demonstrates, filing a trademark application internationally can run into many pitfalls.  Even though Knut IP Management has a right to use the founder’s name, they were unable to trademark that name due to a conflict in another language.  When filing for foreign trademark protection, I recommend that you consult with an experienced attorney to make sure that your trademark meets international standards and won’t be an un-bear-able experience.

Please contact me for a free 30 minute consultation at or call TOLL FREE at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327) and ask for Norman.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +


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