Soccer Player Applies to Register Celebration Gesture as Trademark
I live in a house where a two year old girl has at least five pieces of Chelsea Football Club gear at any given time and can now tell strangers that Chelsea is not currently playing because they are on “summer break”. So when I found out that Tottenham Hotspur player Gareth Bale had applied to register his celebration gesture as a trademark with the United Kingdom’s Intellectual Property Office, I knew that had to be a blog topic. After each goal, the 23-year old Welsh player forms a heart sign with his hands. I won’t violate copyright laws by posting a picture of his celebration, but it is easy to find an image online. He is now applying to register the image of hands forming this sign in connection with this number 11. The IPO online records show the following design in the pending application:
Bale is applying to register the mark in connection with, basically, precious metals, precious stones, jewelry, and horological and chronometric instruments in Class 14, Leather and imitations of leather, and goods made of these materials; animal skins, hides; trunks and travelling bags; umbrellas, parasols and walking sticks; whips, harness and saddlery in Class 18, and clothing, footwear and headgear in Class 25. Can’t wait to see what products are produced under the Class 18 identification of goods.
Bale is also applying to register the word mark ELEVEN OF HEARTS in connection with the same goods. Both applications have been published for opposition and are expected to proceed to registration.
So what does this mean for the US market? While fan support in England and other traditional soccer territories generally identify themselves with a certain club rather than a certain player, in newer markets, such as the US, fans tend to support particular players before identifying with a club. By applying to register his “mark”, Bale is beginning the process of building his personal brand, in the way of Christiano Ronaldo, David Beckham, and Lionel Messi. If he continues to play like he has this past season, he may be leveraging the mark for as much as a third of his income, or three million pounds a year. While there is no pending application in the U.S. yet, it probably will not be long. And while you are still free to imitate his celebration, I wouldn’t start putting a heart logo with a number 11 on any t-shirts.
Sources: http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/espnfcunited/id/6939?cc=5901 http://www.ipo.gov.uk/tmcase/Results/1/UK00002657917 http://www.ipo.gov.uk/tmcase/Results/1/UK00002657915 http://espnfc.com/news/story/_/id/1478071/tottenham-gareth-bale-set-trademark-heart-shaped-logo?cc=5901
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