Hot off their memorable 2-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League Final this summer, Liverpool FC thought it wise to bolster their brand protection to stop others from also benefiting from their success by selling imitation products. And rightly so, but it seems Liverpool FC might have been a little too ambitious in what they thought they could protect as their ‘brand’.
They aimed to register as a trade mark the word LIVERPOOL for a range of football-related products and services.
Whilst I make no admission as to whether Liverpool FC is the most well-known football club in Liverpool, it’s probably safe to say it’s the most well-known to include in its name the word Liverpool, out of the others in lower divisions including A.F.C Liverpool, City of Liverpool and Liverpool University FC. Had Liverpool FC obtained rights in the name LIVERPOOL for football-related products and services, it could have created some issues for those other clubs or new clubs whose names contain the word LIVERPOOL and who wanted to start selling their own LIVERPOOL branded merchandise.
It wasn’t a popular move by the Club, not least amongst its supporters, the Mayor of Liverpool or indeed the UK Intellectual Property Office (“the UKIPO”). The UKIPO refused the trade mark application on the basis that the word LIVERPOOL has “geographical significance”. The UKIPO was of the view that the name has greater significance as a city in comparison to place names that have been protected by other football clubs in the UK.
Forget the current state of the Premier League table or their ropey start in the group stages of the Champions League this season, this big defeat for Liverpool FC will no doubt be the topic of conversation during the next Merseyside derby, particularly since Everton FC successfully registered EVERTON back in 1998.
In fact, Liverpool might keep their head down against other clubs too:-
- Chelsea FC registered CHELSEA for clothing, toys, luggage, magazines and sports-related services
- Tottenham Hotspur registered TOTTENHAM for clothing, posters, luggage, toys and other sports-related goods and services
- Southampton FC registered SOUTHAMPTON for clothing, toys (incl. footballs) and related services
- Watford FC registered WATFORD for clothing, flags, toys and football coaching services
Interestingly, LEICESTER isn’t registered and nor is MANCHESTER…but that’s probably for the best.
Here are some other city names registered, but not by any football clubs:-
- NORWICH is registered for pharmaceutical services
- COVENTRY is registered for financial services, and
- BLACKBURN is registered for bike clothing and related goods
We did find that a minor stylised version of the word BIRMINGHAM is registered in the UK, for clothing and specifically includes football kit, boots and other sports clothing. However, I think the owner would struggle to enforce it against the likes of those already established sports clubs like Birmingham City or Birmingham Rugby Club using BIRMINGHAM on their branded merchandise.
But don’t worry fans, all is not lost for Liverpool FC. Though some improvements could be made to its brand protection portfolio, it does have registrations of ANFIELD, LFC, LIVERPOOL FC, LIVERPOOL FOOTBALL CLUB, its emblems, crest and the all-important YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE and, most recently, LETS TALK ABOUT SIX BABY (courtesy of Jurgen Klopp’s celebratory singing in his post-match interview).
This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.