Fans, Indie Soccer Clubs Slam Liverpool FC For Trying To Trademark 'Liverpool'

from the pool-party dept

Covering trademark nonsense, our posts tend to intersect regularly with the world of sports. It’s relatively common at this point to witness teams and even entire leagues pulling anti-fan trademark stunts, from athletes trademarking their own nicknames no matter the fallout, to leagues considering messing with the trademark applications of video game companies, up to and including iconic baseball teams managing to trademark the derisive nickname given to them by other teams. It’s all very, very stupid.

Across the pond, however, teams in the Premier League have somehow managed to get trademarks on their home-city’s names. Chelsea FC, for instance, has a trademark for “Chelsea” related specifically to football services and merch. This sort of thing is almost never allowed here in the States, but it’s become enough of a thing that Liverpool FC is attempting the same move for “Liverpool” and it’s pissing off a whole bunch of people.

As was the case with Chelsea FC, Liverpool FC insists its mark will be very narrow.

The Reds stress their application is “only in the context of football products and services”, and intended to protect both the club and the supporters “from those benefiting from inauthentic products”.

There are a couple of problems with this. For starters, the general public has apparently become educated enough on the practices of trademark abuse to want to push back on the application themselves. Given how ignorant the general public has long been on how broad trademarks can be abused, this is rather encouraging to see.

A petition has been launched on that, at the time of writing, had already gathered more than 850 signatures in the space of a few hours.

It said: “This petition is to keep [the word Liverpool] for all people of Merseyside to use without a solicitor’s letter dropping through your door. Do the right thing. Let’s stop this.”

Twitter user Azul wrote: “The club only need see how unpopular this is with its own fans to realise their greed is going too far. Not everyone has the budget for official merchandise, and there’s many making a living from this. Turn it in lads.”

Negative feedback from the public goes on from there, including from local ward Councillors. But you have to also wonder just what the granting of such a trademark would do to City of Liverpool FC, an independent club that plays in the Northern Premier League.

City of Liverpool FC, who play in the Northern Premier League, called the move “outrageous” on Twitter. A spokesman for the club told the ECHO : “Our club is one of many that will be affected by this trademark application made by Liverpool FC.  We as an ambitious and independent football club feel that we are entitled to use the name of our city in our name. We understand that LFC may not have intended to threaten the future of our club, but that is an effect of this application, but even just on a moral basis, we don’t think any private business should be able to own the word ‘Liverpool’ – it simply does not belong to them.”

Beyond any moral concerns, this is exactly why many trademark systems put such a high bar on attempts to trademark geographic terms. That term is typically more widely used than any kind of creatively inspired name or term, as is the case here. For a given industry, never mind something as popular as football in the UK, there is likely more than one player in a geographic area. Allowing any one of them to gobble up the rights to a geographic term for that entire industry, even an industry as narrow as football, is insane.

Fellow Twitter user John Furlong called for a campaign against the “ridiculous idea”, adding: “The name of the city does not belong to any one individual or group.”

Not so in the case of Chelsea, as we’ve said. But that’s a problem, not a precedent worth repeating.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: liverpool fc

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Fans, Indie Soccer Clubs Slam Liverpool FC For Trying To Trademark 'Liverpool'”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
K`Tetch (profile) says:

yeah... NO, ya blerts!

As a scouser (one that grew up with anfield visible from his bedroom window), no, just no.

Tired of hearing about the damned team already, just this year, i’m already sick of it. Every bandwagon-jumper, etc. Even moreso than when I lived there.

I can also say, this aint really news there yet, but looks both ways gimmie a few hours, ok?

Just, oh dear. I mean, just how big for their boots have Everton Reserves gotten?

ECA (profile) says:

What is any team..?

Without fans, spectators, fields, arena, stadium…
For the odd reason that they want to MAKE more money, (on little to nothing) if they could, they would charge every human (even if not watching) $1.
Then if 1 person did or not Watch, and pay that $1.. its considered a loss, and they want a tax break.
Love that ESPN and the Olympic committee Attitude..
Dont share or give anything, we MUST make money on Everything..
We even Force you to pay for it(ESPN and cable idea that ESPN isnt an Extra channel and everyone must have/Pay for it)

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Which came first and which will be there last?

If, for example, the Baltimore Colts had trademarked Baltimore (besides all the other entities which include Baltimore as a part of their name) and then (as they did) moved to Indianapolis, they would still own the trademark on Baltimore. How does that make any sense?

Now I do not know if English soccer (er football) teams move about as American sports teams do, but giving any entity other than the place so originally named control of that places name is just asking for that named place to lose their own name.

Qwertygiy says:


This would not rule out all possible abuse, but unlike copyright, a trademark will expire prematurely if it is no longer in use.

If Liverpool F.C. moved to — I dunno, uh, Warrington? — and stopped using the name Liverpool in their trademarked market, their trademark would then be invalidated within a certain time period. I believe it is a year, but it might differ between jurisdiction.

This is what happened to that Big Mac trademark of McDonald’s in Europe; they had a trademark in relation to the names of restaurants and restaurant services. They were not offering any restaurant services or restaurant locations with the Big Mac name, and thus, the trademark was invalidated.

Now, having said that, I still fully agree that the idea of trademarking your home city’s name is far too generic. Trademark your team name, trademark your team logo, trademark your team mascot. But trademarking your hometown is silly and overbroad.

I mean, even over here in America, we have New York City F.C. and the New York Red Bulls in the same soccer league, and the New York Giants and the New York Jets in the same football league. Would be beyond ridiculous for one to try to trademark over the top of the other.

K`Tetch (profile) says:

Re: Which came first and which will be there last?

No, the teams do not move. That’s a uniquely American thing, caused by there being very few teams by design.

The UK soccer scene has 5 professional leagues each with 20+ teams, and at the end of each season the bottom one or two go down a level, and the top ones go up. So a good team, over time goes up the leagues. And this is just England. 100 teams, with a bunch more local/part time teams and leagues. So no, no moving around. if you want to a premiership team in your city, you have to get the existing team there up to grade.

The city of Liverpool has two premiership teams, Everton is the older club (1879), but it was based at Anfield (liverpool’s ground from 1884 on, and was a founder team of the football league in 1788. In 1892, a business dispute over the stadium and business interests saw a rival entity started which tried for a business takeover of the 20,000 capacity stadium, which ended up becoming liverpool football club. Everton left anfield, and set up a new stadium on the other side of Stanley Park called Goodison.

And Liverpool has stayed at anfield, and everton at goodison ever since (although Everton is looking at a new stadium on the riverfront, instead of literally across the park from their rivals)

Gee, it’s almost as if this has been drilled into me by my father, and his wife (who’s the capacity control officer for Goodison)

Now, there has been one example that I can think of of a more substantial move, and that was when Wimbledon FC moved from.. Wimbledon (a borough of London) to Milton Keynes in the early 90s, This was in large part due to the Taylor report, which was a stadium safety report following the Hillsborough disaster (which the CCO now tries to prevent) that said their stadium was unsafe – many at the time had extensive terraces or ‘stands’, where people stood. The taylor report said the stadiums now had to be all-seater, which their 1912-era stadium couldn’t be converted to in a cost-effective manner. However a developer in Milton Keynes was offering to build a new stadium as part of a complex, so it was that or the end of the club. So they got special permission to move 50 miles away, and became the Milton Keynes Dons. Eventually a new team was formed by the locals called AFC Wimbledon, and they established themselves back in the borough.
Oh, and Wimbledon in its late years had one of the few footballers Americans might have heard of – Vinny Jones played for them in the late 80s at the peak of his career, and his film roles are a reflection of how he was on the field.

Does that answer things? Basically the only time in recent memory a upper-level team moved around, was because their old stadium no longer met legal minimum standards and this was their only option to continue, and still only got a 2-1 vote in approval.

(then there’s the whole thing about teams running their own junior programs, with no school/educational tie-ins.)

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Which came first and which will be there last?

No, the teams do not move. That’s a uniquely American thing, caused by there being very few teams by design.

Correction: It’s a uniquely American & Canadian thing, because there have been professional teams that moved from Canada to the US (e.g. The Montreal Expos baseball team became the Washington (D.C.) Nationals) and vice versa (the current Winnipeg Jets hockey team used to be the Atlanta Thrashers, as the old Winnipeg Jets team moved out of Winnipeg and became the Phoenix Coyotes and then the Arizona Coyotes)

Qwertygiy says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think it’s necessarily a "primarily American thing", so much as it is a major difference in how American sports teams are run vs. how UK football clubs are run.

Aspect one: ownership and franchising.

In most American sports leagues, each team has an outright owner who franchises his team from the league. The league has overarching command of certain things each team can or cannot do, but the owner can otherwise do pretty much anything he decides. He has no board, he has no stockholders.

UK football clubs like Liverpool, however, usually have a board of directors and shareholders, and all that for every club, while the league itself does not have control over where, when, or how the club operates. (And in fact, the club might move between leagues based on eligibility, something that is absolutely unheard of in American sports.)

Aspect two: age and tradition.

The longer a team has been in a city, the harder it is to pack up the team and move.

When the Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans, they left behind just 14 years in the Queen City. When the Colts moved from Baltimore to Indianapolis, that was 30 years of football that they abandoned. And when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, why, Brooklyn has never forgiven them for breaking off their 75-year engagement.

Now, Liverpool dates back to 1892, Arsenal to 1886, and Manchester to 1878. That’s 140 years. Six to seven generations. Your great-great-great-great-grandfather might have watched Manchester United play. That sort of history you’re not going to just lightly break away from.

Aspect three: density.

The English Football League has 72 independent teams (20 within the Premier League) within a 50,000 square mile rectangle known as England.

50,000 square miles is roughly the size of New York, North Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, or Mississippi.

Yes, or. Those states are 50,000 square miles each, and they are in the smaller half of states. California and Texas together could fit 9 Englands between them, minus a Cornwall or two.

The average distance a Premier League team will travel to compete in an away game is just 100 miles. The furthest teams, Bournemouth and Newcastle, are less than 300 miles away from each other.

In the NFL, there are 32 teams. The Oakland Raiders have to travel an average distance of a whopping 1,358 miles to get to their away games. Even the Charlotte Panthers, with the least overall travel, must go an average distance of 433 miles to each away game.

This means that there is a lot more room for "new markets" in the U.S. than there is in the U.K.

Aspect four: population.

The U.K. has roughly 56,000,000 people crammed into those 50,000 miles, pretty evenly, apart from London.

The U.S. has 327,000,000 people spread out over 3,800,000 miles. No part of the country comes even close to fitting 56 million people in a regularly-shaped 50 thousand miles. You might be able to get about 45 million in a skinny rectangle between Boston and D.C. But for the most part, we have 200 to 500 miles of low-density suburb between major population centers. It’s pretty easy to find a major population center that does not have a major team nearby, and once you’re there, you have exclusive range over, often, a whole state.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Many have tried, since the 1976 trademark expired in 1982.

They got "Timothee" and "Timothy & Co." and "Timotei" and even "Timothy’s" but the person who tried to trademark "Timothy" in 2017 didn’t include any evidence of using the trademark, and then didn’t respond within 6 months. The person who tried to trademark "Timothy" in 2008 abandoned it after notice of opposition.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is small potatoes, compared to the situation in the colonies – where some beer company thinks that it has trademark rights in an entire demonym for a whole country.

The dispute resolution panellist of the National Arbitration Forum had ordered that the domain name be transferred to Molson Canada, owners of the trade-mark "Canadian". In its July 18, 2002 decision, the Ontario Superior Court found that Molson had no valid rights, title or interest in the domain name.

Gotta love it… for those 33 million or so who self-identify as being "Canadian", better cease and desist because that name is already trademarked as a brand of beer.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...