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Berlin Zoo wins polar bear trademark battle

Arjun Kharpal, special to CNBC.com
Monday, 16 Sep 2013 | 8:04 AM ET
Knut the polar bear
Johannes Eisele | AFP | Getty Images
Knut the polar bear

Berlin Zoo has won the latest round in a long-running legal battle with a U.K. company over the rights to the name of a famous polar bear.

Knut, the bear who was abandoned by his mother, was born in the zoo in 2007, making headlines around the world, appearing on the cover of Vanity Fair and having a candy named after him.

At the same time, U.K. company Knut IP Management attempted to register "Knut - Der Eisbaer" ("Knut - The Polar Bear") as a trademark for paper goods, clothing, shoes and sporting goods.

(Read more: Fifa loses battle over soccer World Cup broadcasts)

Berlin Zoo fought the application, claiming there was a "likelihood of confusion" with an earlier brand it had registered by the name of "KNUD". This was upheld in 2010 by the European Union's Community trademark office (OHIM).

Knut IP Management appealed the decision at the General Court of the European Union, but the court dismissed the objection on Monday.

"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," the Luxembourg-based court said in a statement.

(Read more: Google vindicated by EU court opinion on search index)

The ruling can be appealed at the European Court of Justice, the continent's top court.

Knut died unexpectedly in 2011 after he suffered a brain aneurysm, collapsed and drowned in the water of his enclosure in Berlin Zoo. He was then stuffed and is now on display in Berlin's Natural History Museum.

—By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal: Follow him on Twitter @ArjunKharpal

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