An animal-rights group had sought to have the chimp, Matthew Hiasl Pan, declared a person, hoping to gain guardianship of the animal.
The shelter where Matthew has lived for 25 years is going bankrupt, threatening to leave the chimp homeless. Donors have offered to help support the animal, but under Austrian law, only a person can receive personal gifts.
The Vienna-based Association Against Animal Factories petitioned to be appointed as Matthew's trustee.
But the high court upheld a September ruling by a judge in the town of Wiener Neustadt rejecting the petition, the group said Tuesday.
The rights group said it would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Matthew and another chimp at the shelter, Rosi, were captured as babies in Sierra Leone in 1982 and smuggled to Austria for use in pharmaceutical experiments. Customs officers intercepted the shipment and turned the chimps over to the shelter.
Organizers said they may set up a foundation to collect donations for Matthew, whose life expectancy in captivity is about 60 years. But they argue that only personhood will ensure that he isn't sold outside Austria.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Free Email News Updates
Sign up for our Inside National Geographic newsletter. Every two weeks we'll send you our top stories and pictures (see sample).