Good for Rugby or good for nothing?

Recently the Rugby Football Union (RFU) announced the launch of its “Good for Rugby” authenticity brand. The governing body seeks to protect rugby fans from ticket touts and counterfeit goods, but does the “Good for Rugby” brand really tackle the problem?

Good for Rugby - hailed as a “mark of authenticity” -  is  intended to be used by official retailers, so that rugby fans can easily identify official England Rugby products and services. The RFU alarmingly reports that customers buying goods or services which brandishes the Good for Rugby brand can have “absolute faith that they are buying from a trusted and authentic source”.  But, what’s stopping others from using the mark?  Very little, unfortunately.  The mark, like most brands, can be easily replicated.  Unauthorised traders will imitate the Good for Rugby brand with little, or no, difficulty.

Additionally, the phrase “Good for Rugby” is descriptive, which is problematic.  “Good for Rugby” lacks any real distinctive value and, registrability aside, it’s unlikely that the RFU would successfully prevent a third party from using the phrase alone. For example, a trader could legitimately use the words “Good for Rugby” on its own and, unless the RFU has built up some goodwill in the mark through use, the RFU would struggle to prevent such use.  From a registration point of view, the mark is likely to be devoid of any distinctive character. Rugby fans should, therefore, remain cautious. 

The launch of the new brand demonstrates RFU’s awareness of the ongoing problem with touting but its new consumer protection strategy affords the governing body with no additional legal protection.

The solution, perhaps, is to create something which is difficult to reproduce, like a hologram or a watermark. Other governing bodies, such as FIFA, use other authentication features which include “hang tags, official sew-in labels…trade marks and legal notices”. Ultimately, the onus is on customers to take certain measures to avoid buying fakes and the RFU is taking a step in right direction to educate its customers around authenticity of goods and services. 

At Mills & Reeve we offer a range of services relating to brand strategy and intellectual property advice– to find out more please contact  Rustam Sethna.

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