Wrigley cannot register its Doublemint brand as a trademark with the EU because it is a descriptive name - a rulings made by the European courts yesterday.
The ruling against Wrigley concerns not the distribution of its brands but rather its attempt to register the name of one of its most popular chewing gums, Doublemint.
Earlier this year, an Advocate General of the European Court of Justice advised that Wrigley should not be allowed to register its Doublemint brand in the EU as the name was purely descriptive - under EU rules, descriptions cannot be trademarked.
Although the Advocate General's advice was not binding, the European Court of Justice has today followed it to the letter, effectively stopping Wrigley from registering the name in Europe.
The decision by the EU's highest court does not of course stop Wrigley from selling its gum in Europe, and the brand is registered quite legally as a trademark in most of the EU Member States. A pan-European ruling would simply have made the trademark process easier and cheaper for Wrigley.
"A sign may not be registered as a community trademark if one of its possible meanings can designate a characteristic of the goods concerned," the court said in a statement.
Wrigley has been trying to register the name in the EU since 1996, when the EU's Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) blocked the attempt on the grounds that the name was a description. Wrigley appealed against the decision in 1998, but a year later this attempt was also foiled when the Board of Appeal found that the term Doublemint was simply "descriptive of certain characteristics of the goods in question".
Undeterred, Wrigley took the case to the courts, arguing that the OHIM had been wrong when determining that the word Doublemint was only descriptive. It said that the word could also be interpreted as meaning 'containing twice as much mint' or 'made from two types of mint' - a claim which the lower Court of the First Instance backed, saying that the name Doublemint had an "ambiguous and suggestive meaning which is open to various interpretations" and that it could not be characterised as exclusively descriptive.
But the OHIM persisted in its attempt to block the name, leading to the cases finally being transferred to the ECJ and today's ruling.