The following is from the Plain English Campaign newsletter:
A legal case that finished this week had an interesting twist: the firm involved claimed their language was ambiguous, but the court argued it was still clear.
The case was about Wrigley’s attempts to register ‘Doublemint’ as a trademark for their chewing gum.
First the European Union’s Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market turned down the trademark application because of a rule that descriptive phrases cannot be registered.
Then Wrigley appealed to the EU’s Court of First Justice, saying ‘Doublemint’ was ambiguous as it could mean the product had twice the usual amount of mint, or that it involved two varieties of mint. The court agreed that this dual meaning meant that logically the phrase could not be an effective description.
However, the Office for Harmonisation took the case to the European Court of Justice, which decided the term was still a description. The Court’s Advocate-General said that ‘Doublemint’ implied ‘a mint flavour somehow doubled’. According to the ruling, the fact that the method of doubling was uncertain ‘in no way detracts from the fact that the term designates a characteristic of doubled mintiness.’