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Roger Federer and trade marks: what's happening at Wimbledon?

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Brands can be everything when it comes to sport, with international athletes providing the perfect platform to advertise brands across the globe. And when Wimbledon 2018 ‘served off’ on Monday, with the first match on Centre Court played by last year’s winner Roger Federer, it was brands and not tennis that were the focus of attention.

Roger Federer’s well rumoured move to Uniqlo as their Global Brand Ambassador was announced yesterday, with a reported 10-year £230 million deal. This move away from Nike resulted in Federer walking out on to the hallowed grass wearing a Uniqlo T-shirt, shorts, socks and his signature headband.

But a tennis player on any surface without tennis shoes…

The eagle-eyed will have noticed that Federer was wearing Nike shoes. Could this be because, at present, Uniqlo does not manufacture tennis shoes?

A closer look at the shoes showed that the backs were emblazoned with the RF logo trade mark, which has become synonymous with Federer.

However, this mark is currently owned by Nike, Inc. As such it is believed that the agreement entered into by Federer with Uniqlo expressly provided for the wearing of the Nike shoes. 

Meanwhile rumours are circulating that Federer is seeking to obtain the mark from Nike, even saying in his post-match press conference “the RF logo is with Nike at the moment, but it will come to me at some point”.

Ownership of trade marks is extremely important, not least when it comes to sport. Arguably, when you are one of the greatest tennis players, with 20 grand slam titles (the most for a male player), this importance is further amplified. Indeed, Federer has used his stature on the court to build the RF brand over the last eight years, even using the logo to form his own foundation. So it is only fitting that he wants to continue using it.

Time will tell if Federer can acquire the use of the RF logo, but he certainly feels it belongs to him and that it will be with him in due course. If Federer does obtain the rights to the RF logo, Uniqlo is well placed to use this, with the permission of Federer, to complete the kit and build a name for itself in the world of tennis.

Meanwhile for the next generation of athletes, licensing trade marks to sponsors may be preferred to sponsors owning the marks themselves.