Walking Alone: Liverpool FC Fails to Obtain Namesake TrademarkOctober 5, 2019

English Premier League soccer club Liverpool FC may have scraped by with a victory against Sheffield United last weekend, but that luck does not appear to have extended to the U.K. Intellectual Property Office. 

Earlier this year, the club announced that it had submitted an application with the IPO to register LIVERPOOL as a trademark in a variety of classes for soccer (well, “football”)-related goods and services.  The problem with this plan, however, is that Sections 3(1)(b) and (c) of the UK’s Trade Marks Act 1994 forbid the registration of “trade marks which are devoid of any distinctive character” and “trade marks which consist exclusively of signs or indications which may serve, in trade, to designate the . . . geographical origin . . . of goods or services.”  In other words, Liverpool FC would need to establish that relevant consumers associate the LIVERPOOL mark with the soccer club specifically, and not simply with the city of Liverpool itself.

Just as the historically underachieving club has failed to ever win a Premier League title, so too did it fail in overcoming this legal obstacle (even managing to incite fans and Liverpool residents in the process).  Late last month, the club issued a statement explaining that its application to trademark the word Liverpool had been unsuccessful, based primarily on “‘the geographical significance’ of Liverpool as a city.”  In doing so, the club acknowledged that it accepted the IPO’s decision and “the spirit in which it has been made.”

Could a club of bigger stature than this meddling Merseyside outfit (like, say, Manchester United) have fared better in such a lofty pursuit?  Perhaps.  But with this sort of (blind) ambition, maybe Liverpool FC might just one day win that Premier League title and really make a name for itself.

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