FIFA Hails Legal Victory for the European Trademark Office

Dec 15, 2005

FIFA announced last month that the European Trademark Office, OHIM (Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market), has “confirmed” its rights in its 2006 FIFA World Cup™ trademarks.
The ruling means that only FIFA’s commercial partners may use FIFA’s event marks including “WM 2006”, “World Cup 2006”, “World Cup Germany”, “Germany 2006” and “World Cup 2006 Germany” for any commercial purposes in Europe, including host country Germany.
In the OHIM case, the confectionery company Ferrero had argued that the FIFA trademarks should be declared invalid on the grounds of absence of distinctive character. OHIM has, however, confirmed FIFA’s registrations for all registered trademarks for all designated categories of products and services.
The OHIM decision comes on the heels of two recent German court decisions protecting FIFA’s rights. The first decision, passed by the Hamburg Court on 25 October 2005, canceled Ferrero’s trademark registrations in respect of 11 marks containing the element “2006” or “2010”. The second decision, issued by the Hamburg Court on 3 November 2005, prohibited the commercial use of the Internet domain name by a sports betting company.
“FIFA welcomes this very important decision by OHIM and the positive decisions in Germany,” said FIFA General Secretary Urs Linsi. “The safeguarding of the commercial rights is essential for the future of a privately financed FIFA World Cup, for the organizers of other major sports events, and for the game of football as a whole. The revenue that the FIFA World Cup generates from marketing serves as the basis for FIFA’s extensive range of grassroots development activities.”
“This view is also supported by a decision taken earlier this year by the German Patent Court, which confirmed a number of similar FIFA trademarks in Germany itself,” according to FIFA. “While that original decision in Germany did however say that these registrations were not valid for all categories of products and services, the European Trademark Office has now granted protection on all products and services registered by FIFA. This means that regardless of the ongoing individual action in Germany, these trademarks may now be enforced by FIFA in all European Union countries, including Germany.”


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