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.

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Filed Under: fans, football, liverpool, soccer, trademark
Companies: liverpool fc

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  1. icon
    K`Tetch (profile), 27 Jul 2019 @ 2:40pm

    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.)

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