TOKYO (AP) -- The familiar curvaceous shape of the Coca-Cola bottle is now officially registered as a trademark in Japan -- this nation's first such recognition of a three-dimensional bottle form devoid of any lettering.
A Japanese court ruled Thursday in favor of Coca-Cola Co., the U.S. beverage maker, which had been demanding registration for its so-called ''contour bottle'' since 2003, Maki Morino, spokeswoman for the company's Japan unit, said Friday.
The Japanese Patent Office had previously refused the demand, although other shapes, including Kentucky Fried Chicken's Colonel Sanders, have won such registration in Japan.
The sticking point with the Coke bottle was that it was a container without any lettering that seemed to be similar to other bottles, said Patent Office spokesman Yoshihisa Ariga.
Other companies such as Japanese brewery Suntory Ltd. and health drink maker Yakult Honsha Co. have sought to register the bottle shapes of their products but were turned down, he said.
The Patent Office needs to study the Tokyo High Court ruling, and has not yet decided whether it will appeal, said Ariga.
Coca-Cola's case got a boost because the company stuck to the same design since the start of the product, in 1916, and the iconic shape -- inspiring the artwork of Andy Warhol and movies such as ''The Gods Must Be Crazy'' -- is widely recognized.
The bottle became a registered trademark in the U.S. in 1960, and is likewise honored in Russia, Great Britain, China and other nations, according to Coca-Cola.
Coca-Cola has been sold in Japan since 1956.
American-made Maglite flashlight received trademark protection in Japan last June after a similar fight.