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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 May, 2005, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Westlife lose in trademark battle
Packet of West cigarettes
Judges said the similarity with West was enough to confuse
Irish pop group Westlife have lost a five-year legal battle which challenged the use of their name as a trademark.

A German tobacco company took the case claiming the boy band's name was too similar to its trademark "West".

A European court in Luxembourg ruled that Westlife could not register its name at the EU's trademark office.

The West cigarette brand claimed use of the Westlife name on clothing and other merchandise could cause confusion with its trademarks.

On Wednesday, judges at the European Court of First Instance said the fact Germans said "vest" and not "west" did not lessen the confusion with the merchandise of a pop group many would know as "Vestlife".

The band can continue to use its name and put it on merchandise.

However, it cannot protect it as an exclusive trademark.

West is part of the Imperial Tobacco group.

Westlife applied for an EU trademark in 1999 and said there was a clear distinction between the group's name and the word West.

The group's German lawyer Reiner Prietsch said: "The difference in length alone has a consequence that no consumer will read or hear 'West' for 'Westlife', or vice versa."

Westlife applied for an EU trademark in 1999

However, the judges in Luxembourg said the similarity was enough to confuse the "average German consumer".

"The relevant public might think that the origin of the goods and services marketed under the Westlife mark is the same as that of the goods and services marketed under the West mark, or at least that there is an economic link between the various companies or undertakings which market them.

"In the light of all the foregoing, and in view of the fact that the goods and services in question are identical or similar, the court finds that there is a likelihood of confusion between the two trademarks."

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