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. identicon
    Qwertygiy, 27 Jul 2019 @ 5:03pm

    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.

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