Manchester United Sues Sega Over Football Manager Trademark Use
Manchester United is suing the makers of the Football Manager video game series for allegedly infringing its trademark by using the club’s name. The English Premier League side has taken legal action against the developers of the popular soccer management simulation for replacing the club logo with a simplified red and white striped version. United claims this “deprives the registered proprietor of its right to have the club crest licensed.”
It accuses the club of trying to “prevent legitimate competition in the video games field by preventing parties not licensed by the claimant from using the name of the Manchester United football team within such games.”
Using the name without the proper logo, according to the club, “deprives the registered proprietor of its right to have the club crest licensed.” The team’s lawyer argued during a preliminary hearing that Manchester United “is one of the world’s most valuable and recognized brands,” and that clubs make “very significant” money by licensing their names and logos. But naming the team without using the logo unfairly skirts the requirement to pay for it.
“The products and services that are licensed by the claimant benefit from an association with the club’s winning culture and its brand values,”
“Consumers expect to see the club crest next to the name Manchester United … and this failure to do so amounts to wrongful use.”
Interestingly, the lawyer also requested that Manchester United’s lawsuit be amended to include complaints about mods that enable players to add team logos to the game on their own: He said Sega and SI “encouraged” and “directly benefited” from mods because they effectively allow the use of official team logos without requiring that any licensing fees be paid.
In a preliminary remote hearing, Manchester United argued that the money made from licensing was “very significant,” and that using an incorrect version of the logo next to the club’s name was considered wrongful use.
Sega Publishing and Sports Interactive said they have been legitimately using the club’s name in a soccer context in “Football Manager” and its predecessor, “Championship Manager,” since 1992 without any complaints. Data analytics and talent scouts working for United contacted SI asking for access to the Football Manager database for research purposes, according to the gaming companies. Being unable to reference United “would amount to an unreasonable restraint on the right to freedom of expression,” they argued.
Sega and SI Games also added that efforts to prevent the companies from using the Manchester United name “would amount to an unreasonable restraint on the right to freedom of expression to restrain the use of the words ‘Manchester United’ to refer to a team in a computer game.”
Wyand also pointed out that SI Games and Manchester United have already established a mutually agreeable business relationship of sorts. Sega and SI “encouraged” the use of downloadable patches containing replica trademarks which are supplied by third parties, Malynicz said.
Furthermore, the companies said that prohibiting them from using the name “would amount to an unreasonable restraint on the right to freedom of expression to restrain the use of the words ‘Manchester United’ to refer to a team in a computer game.”