To readers who, unlike the author, have a solid sporting professional reputation, here’s an expensive lesson in why it’s important to protect your brand early:
Back in 2012 one Mr Moreira applied to register the word sign ‘NEYMAR’ with the EU Intellectual Property Office.
Neymar at this point was already one of the world’s most marketable athletes - 20 years old, played for the Brazilian national team and had just been named South American Footballer of the Year. Despite this (and gearing up for a move to Barca) he had not yet protected his brand in Europe.
So, in the absence of any other registration, Mr Moreira’s application succeeded, and the word NEYMAR was registered to him in January 2013 for goods classified as ‘clothing, footwear and headgear’.
Thus did NEYMAR the word and Neymar the man part ways in Europe, until we reach the European General Court earlier this month (6 years of legal wrangling later), which confirms an EU Board of Appeal judgment in Neymar’s favour.
The Appeal Court found, drawing on the tastily named Chocoladefabriken Lindt & Sprüngli case, that Mr Moreira’s application was made in bad faith. His intention behind the NEYMAR registration had been to take advantage of an association with Neymar’s renown. He would have known of Neymar’s reputation and would have anticipated a likely potential transfer to Europe (as a prime destination for aspiring footballers).
Mr Moreira argued he had registered NEYMAR purely coincidentally because of its charming phonetics – he had not connected the word and the internationally-recognised footballer. Was this also the case when he attempted to register ‘IKER CASILLAS’ on the same day in 2012? The court was not convinced, and Neymar was allowed to keep his neym.
This follows a long line of bad faith uses of sportsperson names for financial gain, where entrepreneurial third parties have got there first. Wayne Rooney had to fight for his domain name back in 2006 from a cybersquatting former fan disgruntled by his move from Everton. Jaap Stam had a similar fight 6 years’ earlier.
The message for upcoming sportstars? Protect your brand early.