Steiff, German maker of teddy bears and other soft toys, loses EU trademark court case

BRUSSELS – A top European Union court has struck down a bid by German manufacturer Steiff seeking trademark protection for its characteristic buttoning of its logo into the ear of its teddy bears and other soft toys.

The General Court in Luxembourg ruled Thursday trademark protection can’t be granted because buttoning the label to the soft toy’s ear lacks a “distinctive character” and doesn’t in itself enable average consumers to recognize the product’s origin.

The ruling deals a blow to the German high-end manufacturer, which sought better protection from competitors selling cheaper soft toys with similar ear buttons.

The ruling confirms a 2010 decision by Europe’s Community Trade Office.

Steiff, founded in 1880 in southwestern Germany, can still file an appeal against the decision to the EU’s highest court.