Football superstar Lionel Messi won the backing of European Court of Justice judges on Thursday (26 April), when they ruled that the Barcelona player’s request for a trademark is legitimate, citing his fame outside the world of football as a crucial element of the case.
In a week in which FC Barcelona was surprisingly absent from Champions League action, Messi can at least comfort himself with the news that the trademark for his clothing and sports equipment brand, ‘MESSI’, does not break EU rules.
The case dates back to 2011, when Messi’s representatives requested the European Union Office for Intellectual Property (EUIPO) to register a logo that includes a capital letter ‘M’ and the football player’s surname in all capital letters.
Following that request, a complaint was lodged against Messi by another clothing and sports equipment company, MASSI, which cited the similarities between the two trademarks and the likelihood the two could be confused.
EUIPO upheld that complaint, agreeing that there was a real chance of confusion, due to the visual and phonetic similarities. Messi first appealed at the EUIPO and then went to the ECJ for a ruling.
The General Court today annulled the EUIPO’s ruling, insisting that Messi is enough of a “famous figure” even outside of the world of football for most average consumers not to confuse the two brands.
In a statement, the court acknowledged that the EUIPO was right to point out the visual and phonetic similarities but disagreed that only a “part of the relevant public” would be able to make the distinction, adding that the player’s TV and radio presence means he transcends his sport.
The court concluded that although some people would not know who Messi is, that would not be the “typical case” for people who buy sports clothing or equipment.
Messi can now turn his attentions back to his footballing activities, where Barcelona currently holds an 11-point advantage at the top of the Spanish league and has already won the Spanish cup.
The diminutive Argentine will also hope that he can lead his country to World Cup glory in Russia later this year.