Without their OK, top soccer players become trademarks

Updated: 2012-06-28 08:16

By Zhang Zhao (China Daily)

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 Without their OK, top soccer players become trademarks

Euro Cup poster at a Nanjing electronics store, which is used to attract shoppers and promote sales. Provided to China Daily

Without their OK, top soccer players become trademarks

Philipp Lahm, Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta are world-popular soccer stars, but they have also attracted attention that they might not want - from Chinese companies registering their names as trademarks.

"Among the 368 players in this year's Euro Cup, 88 names have been registered as trademarks," said Wu Zhaolong, a manager at Chongqing-based trademark agency Southwest Trademark Service.

The top team is England which has 13 player names registered as trademarks, said Wu.

Xavier Hernandez Creus from Spain is favored by the most companies, with 22 types of products using his name as a trademark. "Generally, names that are short in Chinese translation are more popular as trademarks, such as Gerard Pique, Karim Benzema and Lahm," he said. "Greece is the only team well out of the trademark rush - Greek players' names are too long."

In addition, the nicknames of many players have also become trademarks, such as C Ronaldo (Cristiano Ronaldo), Pepe (Kepler Laveran Lima Ferreira) and Saint Iker (Iker Casillas Fernandez), Wu noted.

The names are used on 474 products with 56 of the 88 stars' names used for clothes and shoes, said Wu.

Other products include Lahm pesticide, a C Ronaldo flush toilet and Saint Iker jewelry.

Wu said it is "not easy for famous soccer players to defend their rights against companies that use their names as trademarks" because they have to pay close attention to the trademark business.

"Usually, the players can declare their rights, but they have to testify that the trademark is the same as their names," Wu explained. "But the companies are just using their names in Chinese translation, and some are just part of the trademark."

According to the Chinese legal system, anyone can raise an objection to a trademark during a three-month review period. The soccer players have five years to raise objections over use of their names as trademarks.

Wu admits the approach is "like hiring stars to do advertising for free".

But Yuan Ye, vice director of Southwest Trademark Service, said it can backfire on companies. "To some extent, famous names can promote sales, but over the long-term, it's more like a gamble," he said.

"If a player's performance slips or if he has a scandal, the trademark will devalue sharply or even become worthless."


(China Daily 06/28/2012 page5)