Selling cheaper sports merchandise outside sporting grounds is big business. Fans want to buy something to remember the day, but don’t want to pay the prices charged by official outlets.
This is particularly common for football matches in the UK, with stalls outside the grounds selling merchandise bearing the club’s name – but which has nothing to do with the official brand of the club.
Merchandise typically sold outside football grounds includes team scarves, team pin badges, T shirts with the club badge, and T shirts bearing the image of a well-known player. However, there is likely to be infringement in relation to:
A football club’s official badge is invariably protected as a trademark. Most Premier League clubs will have registered their official club badges as a trademark in order to exploit the use of it on official merchandise – and to limit the use of it on unofficial merchandise.
Football clubs may also register the name of their club as a trademark. As many club names will include a place name, they can only attract trademark protection in the entire name. For example, Manchester United could be registered as a trademark – whereas Manchester will not.
Many football clubs have nicknames, for example, Manchester United are also called ‘the Red Devils’. It is also likely that a club will seek to protect the official use of the club’s nickname by registering it as a.
Many individual football players will seek to protect themselves and their own brand by registering their name and signature as trademarks. However, to be registered as a trademark it must be distinctive and not commonplace – so not every footballer is able to register his name as a trademark. This means the use of a footballer’s name on a product may therefore infringe a trademark in that name if the player was able to register his name as a trademark.
Some sportsmen and women are also able to register their signature as a trademark. This means any T shirts or posters containing their signature could infringe the player’s rights. Certain sportsmen (Tiger Woods, for instance) are rumoured to refuse to sign autographs as they feel it will decrease the value in their registered trademark.
To prove a trademark infringement, the use of that trademark must be shown to create a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public. This means that a member of the general public must be led to be mistaken in their belief that use of the trademark identifies the goods or services of another trader.
For example, if the use of the club’s badge would lead a member of the general public to believe the goods are official club goods – then a trademark infringement would be established.
Often, posters of an entire team lining up for the season photograph will be sold outside the ground. If posters such as this are sold, it is likely to infringe the copyright held in the actual photograph.is an automatic right which exists as soon as the photograph is taken, and is owned by the person who took the photo. The copyright of a photograph of the entire team will be owned by the club itself, so if you reproduce it you will be liable for (regardless of whether or not a member of the public believes it to be official).
If you use a picture of an individual player, for example, as a poster or on a T shirt, you may be breaching their intellectual property rights. The copyright in the photo will usually be owned by the person taking the photograph. However, if you use a picture of an individual player on a T shirt without authorisation, you maybe liable to an action for.
To prove passing off, the following must be established:
If the T shirt (or similar merchandise) containing the image of that player would be assumed by members of the public to be endorsed by that player, a passing off claim can follow. In practice, this is difficult to prove in circumstances where the product is intended to show passion for a particular player – and is not intended to use that image to endorse a product.
Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.
When you submit your details, you'll be in safe hands. Our partners are National Accident Helpline (a brand of National Accident Law, a firm of personal injury solicitors regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority). They are the UK's leading personal injury service. Their friendly legal services advisers will call you to talk about your claim and give you free, no-obligation advice. National Accident Law may pay us a marketing fee for our services.
By submitting your personal data, you agree for your details to be sent to National Accident Law so they can contact you to discuss your claim.
If you win your case, your solicitor's success fee will be taken from the compensation you are awarded - up to a maximum of 25%. Your solicitor will discuss any fees before starting your case.