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Manchester United suing Football Manager for trademark infringement

Richie McCormack
Richie McCormack

18:27 22 May 2020

Manchester United are suing the makers of the Football Manager video game series for allegedly infringing its trademark by using the club's name.

The game does not use the club's official logo, replacing it with a simplified red and white striped version.

In their action, United claims this deprives the registered proprietor of its right to have the club crest licensed.

The game's publishers - Sega Publishing and Sports Interactive (SI) - say they've legitimately used the club's name in a football context since 1992 without any complaints.

Sega and SI have accused United of trying to "prevent legitimate competition in the video games field by preventing parties not licensed by the claimant from using the name of the Manchester United football team within such games”.

At a preliminary hearing held remotely on Friday, Manchester United's barrister Simon Malynicz QC said "the name 'Manchester United' is one of the world's most valuable and recognised brands".

He claimed the money made from a club licensing their name and branding is "very significant", adding that "the products and services that are licensed by the claimant benefit from an association with the club's winning culture and its brand values".

Malynicz argued that, "Consumers expect to see the club crest next to the name Manchester United ... and this failure to do so amounts to wrongful use”.

On behalf of Sega and SI, Roger Wyand QC argued, "The claimant has acquiesced in the use by the defendants of the name of the Manchester United football team in the Football Manager game and cannot now complain of such use."

Wyand added, "Copies of the game have also been sent by SI to a number of officials and players at the [club] for a number of years and there have been a number of positive press comments and tweets about the game by them.

"Further, the claimant’s staff working in the data analytics and scouting teams have contacted SI on various occasions asking for access to the Football Manager database for scouting and research purposes.

The defence barrister concluded, "There is no likelihood of confusion or damage to the claimant’s EU trademarks ... caused by the defendants’ activities”.

The case judge - Mr Justice Morgan - reserved his judgment on United’s application to amend its claim to a later date.

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