July 25 (UPI) -- The shape of Kit Kat's chocolate bar is not unique enough to receive protection under copyright laws, the European Court of Justice ruled Wednesday.
The ruling is the latest episode in a 16-year legal battle by manufacturer Nestlé, which seeks to protect the three-dimensional shape of the iconic candy bar.
The product neatly breaks into four rectangular pieces, known as "four fingers," after the wrapper is opened. The Brussels court ruled, though, that "four trapezoidal bars aligned on a rectangular base" does not merit protected status in the European Union.
Nestlé applied for a trademark for Kit Kat in 2002, and was granted one in 2006. Rival Cadbury Schweppes contested the ruling a year later and got the EU's General Court to grant a trademark annulment.
The court said in 2016 Nestlé had not proven the entire EU regards the Kit Kat shape as distinctive. It noted the EU Intellectual Property Office, which granted the trademark, had not ruled that people in Belgium, Ireland, Greece and Portugal recognize the form as that of a Kit Kat.
The Court of Justice ruling means the General Court properly annulled the trademark decision. The EUIPO now must reassess Nestlé's trademark application.
"We believe that the distinctive shape of our four finger Kit Kat deserves protection and, following today's findings, the case will now be sent back to the EU Board of Appeal to examine the evidence," Nestlé said in a statement. "We think the evidence proves that the familiar shape of our iconic, four-finger Kit Kat is distinctive enough to be registered as an EU trademark."
Mondelez, which owns Cadbury Schweppes, offers a similar chocolate bar in Norway called Kvikk Lunsj, which breaks into four pieces.
Cadbury Schweppes and Nestlé have been fighting each other's designs and packaging in court for years, including Cadbury's effort to copyright the purple color it uses on wrappers.