Has anyone heard of Knut the Polar Bear?  Well, the German icon recently had his day in court.  The European Union General Court in Luxembourg ruled this week in favor of the Berlin Zoo’s bid to get European trademark rights to the bear’s name.  The Berlin Zoo is in litigation with the United Kingdom’s company Knut IP Management over the names ‘Knut’ and ‘Knut der Eisbaer’.  The Berlin Zoo won a first round at European Union’s Community trademark office in March 2010.  Knut IP Management attempted to register “Knut – Der Eisbaer” (“Knut – The Polar Bear”) as a trademark for paper goods, clothing, shoes and sporting goods. EU Court cited a likelihood of confusion of similar goods sold by the UK company as reasoning for their ruling.  KNUT IP Management Ltd contends an infringement of Article 8(1)(b) of Regulation 207/2009, because the marks don’t invoke a likelihood of confusion.

The trademark is important to the Berlin Zoo because it still generates significant profits from Knut’s likeness. Knut the Polar Bear was not just any animal you would find at the zoo.  He was very special.  His website states:  “When Knut was born, he was no bigger than a snowball and unable to care for himself. His mother didn’t know how to take care of Knut and rejected him. Knut would have died if it weren’t for Thomas Dorflein, a zookeeper who nurtured Knut and gave him the love and attention he needed to thrive. The adorable little polar bear captured the world’s attention, and now Knut is loved around the globe.”  Knut was featured in Vanity Fair with Leonardo DiCaprio, and television shows documented him from his very beginning to his death at age four of encephalitis.  He also inspired a children’s candy.  Since his birth in 2006, Knut helped boost Berlin Zoo’s visits by 21 percent.  Bloomberg Businessweek hailed him the $140 Million Polar Bear.

The decision by the European Union General Court can be appealed to the European Court of Justice.