An icy response for British firm that tried to muscle in on Knut the much-loved polar bear

European Court of Justice rules that copyright belongs to Berlin zoo for toys, mugs and sporting goods

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The Independent Online

A battle between Berlin Zoo and a British company over the rights to sell everything from soft toys to sporting goods bearing the name of the late polar bear Knut ended today when the European Court of Justice ruled that copyright belonged to the zoo.

Animal-lovers mourned when Knut dropped dead of encephalitis in front of hundreds of tourists at Berlin Zoo in 2011, but he has lived on in stamps, mugs, postcards, sweets and dozens of other products which bring in millions of euros in revenue for the zoo.

When Knut first found fame in 2007, the zoo trademarked the name under the spelling "Knud". A British-registered firm, Knut IP Management Ltd, soon after tried to trademark the words "Knut - Der Eisbaer (Knut - The Polar Bear)", prompting objections from the zoo.

The court in Luxembourg found in favour of Berlin Zoo, in a ruling which said there was a "likelihood of confusion" among consumers who wanted to buy Knut products from the zoo.

Knut captured the hearts - and the wallets - of Germany in 2007, when his mother rejected him and Berlin Zoo announced they would put him down. After outcry, the zoo agreed that Knut would be hand-reared by zoo employee Thomas Dörflein, and hundreds of thousands turned up to watch the rugged keeper gambol with the cuddly beast.

His story then went global, with Knut appearing on the cover of Vanity Fair, gazing adoringly at Leonardo DiCaprio from his photo-shopped perch on an iceberg.

But Knut's star had already started to tarnish at the time of his death. Like many young prodigies, critics said he had grown up to crave attention. One keeper called him a "publicity-addicted psycho" and said he would howl with rage if he did not have a crowd of admirers.