Arsenal trademark win deals blow to unofficial merchandise traders

In a watershed ruling, the European Court of Justice has banned street trader Matthew Reed from selling unauthorised Arsenal Football Club merchandise.

Under a ruling made yesterday (Tuesday), Reed was banned from selling his merchandise, which includes shirts, scarves and hats from the stall that he has run since the Seventies. It ruled that even though there is a sign on Reed’s stall stating that the merchandise was unofficial, fans might still be under the impression that the club endorses the merchandise.

This follows an April 2001 ruling in the High Court, which found against Arsenal and ruled that the football club had failed to show that Reed had infringed on its trademarks. The judge had also rejected Arsenal’s claim that Reed was “passing off” the merchandise as official.

Tony Willoughby, a senior partner with intellectual property law specialists Willoughby & Partners, branded the decision a “retrograde step and likely to lead to a grave injustice”.

He adds: “Reed was selling Arsenal souvenir items long before the club even thought about registering its name as a trademark. So long as nobody is deceived into believing that Reed’s scarves are products of the football club, I see no reason why he should be stopped.”

Reed is reported to be considering an appeal to the High Court in London.

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