Band cannot block firms from using name.

Irish boyband Westlife today (May 4) lost their five-year legal battle against the cigarette manufacturer that challenged the use of their name as a trademark.

German cigarette company West had filed a suit arguing there was a risk of confusion between its name and the Westlife brand. The dispute reached the European Union's Court of First Instance in Luxembourg, which today confirmed that Westlife had wrongly been allowed to register as a trademark.

The judges in Luxembourg said the similarity between the names was enough to confuse the "average German consumer" and ruled that the band cannot protect its name as an exclusive trademark. However, the band can continue to use its name and apply it to merchandise.

Westlife filed its name in May 1999 with the European Union's Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, which has responsibility for trademarks and designs. Hamburg-based Reemark Gesellschaft fur Marken Kooperation Mbh -- part of the Imperial Tobacco group -- argued that it registered West as a name in Germany beforehand.

Reemark had argued that the risk of confusion between names was potentially heightened with Westlife's planned launch of a range of clothing and other products.

The brand Westlife had been registered to cover a variety of goods, including sound storage media, publishing and promotional material; Reemark had registered West for photographic goods, stationery products, clothing and entertainment goods, among other items.