Tom Collins explains the recent situation where trademark issues delayed the appointment of Jose Mourinho as the new Manchester United manager.
Trademark law made an unexpected foray into the footballing world when, at the end of May, it emerged that Chelsea Football Club held a number of registered marks for ‘Mourinho’, ‘Jose Mourinho’ and his signature, covering a variety of goods and services including scarves, aftershave and posters. This unusual situation delayed the appointment of the self-proclaimed “special one” as Manchester United manager and sends out some important messages about brand control.
A number of high-profile athletes have registered their names as trademarks to take advantage of the licensing opportunities and ability to prevent unauthorised use. Notable examples include Rory McIlroy, David Beckham and tennis tycoon Roger Federer. Beyond the traditional name marks, some sporting icons have been more creative with their registrations, filing insignia such as signatures, nicknames (for example “Gazza” by Paul Gascoigne) and slogans. Many will also remember Welsh footballer Gareth Bale attempting to trademark his ‘eleven of hearts’ goal celebration, which was subsequently surrendered.
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First published in Intellectual Property Magazine, July/August 2016