Fifa bid to patent World Cup faces legal threat

Fifa’s bid to register the words “world” and “cup” as trademarks at the Patents Office risks legal action from the Institute of Sales Promotion (ISP).

The sales promotion trade body claims the move is a restraint of trade, and is currently drafting a complaint with its lawyers. The body has until June 25 to submit its paper.

However, if the Patents Office rejects this, the ISP will consider legal action.

The ISP fears that if the words are patented, its members will be restricted from using them for commercial purposes in promotions.

Fifa, the governing body for world football, is acutely aware of the commercial value of the World Cup. It charges its top ten official sponsors 28m each for the right to be involved with the tournament.

ISP secretary general Susan Short says: “We will seriously consider taking legal action if this is passed by the Patents Office. We may have to raise an extra levy from our members if we to go to court.”

Short adds: “These words are in the public domain, and it is not common sense for them to try to copyright them. We will argue that it is not fair industrial practice.”

The ISP says that if this trademark is accepted, it could affect almost half of its 2,400 members, which include sales promotion agencies as well as clients such as Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever. The ISP estimates the move, if passed, could cost well over 2m in lost revenues.

Short says: “The move creates a dangerous precedent. If this gets through, then other sports competitions will do the same. That will make effective sales promotion around these world events impossibly difficult.”

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