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Trade marks at the World Cup: Jesse Lingard runs, shoots and scores - but could he still pick up a red card?

England international Jesse Lingard, currently in Russia for the World Cup Finals, has recently filed through his company, Jlingz Limited, four trade mark applications for the word mark “JLINGZ” and logos incorporating the action of his signature celebration. This seemingly innocuous act could potentially have ramifications for Jesse at the World Cup.

How does this relate to trade mark rights and the World Cup?

The FIFA World Cup is one of the most valuable global sporting events. It provides a lucrative opportunity for companies to expose their brands to the billions of people watching around the world.

As such, FIFA enforce regulations in regards to brand advertising, with selected sponsors given exclusivity to associate and market their brand at the World Cup.

Why is it important?

If FIFA did not enforce and protect these rights, the commercial value to sponsors paying for this exclusivity would be significantly impaired.

This, however, does not stop companies from trying what has become known as “ambush marketing”. Ambush marketing usually describes activities undertaken by companies which are not sponsors of the event but seek to take advantage of the huge public interest which the event generates. Prime examples of this are:

- Paddypower – At Euro 2012 Nicklas Bendtner celebrated a goal by lifting up his top revealing the waist band of his boxers which had the word “Paddypower” on them. He incurred a €100,000 fine from UEFA for his actions.

- Bavaria Beer – At the 2010 World Cup, 36 women were removed as they were wearing clothing that was associated with the beer company. Budweiser was the only brewer which had the right to advertise in the stadium.

Where does Jesse Lingard fit into this?

Jesse’s trade mark applications are in class 25, which covers clothing, footwear and headgear.

The applications and, in particular, the logos relate to his signature celebration which he has performed whilst scoring for England and Manchester United, which is known as the “J Lingz” celebration. Yesterday Jesse scored against Panama at the World Cup and performed this celebration in front of the entire stadium, and millions of viewers watching online or through television. The issue here is whether or not, due to his new trade mark applications; this contravenes FIFA’s regulations on marketing.

FIFA’s Media and Marketing Regulations for the 2018 World Cup restrict third parties not authorised to do so by FIFA from doing anything which gives rise to any association between the third party and the World Cup.

Understandably neither Jesse nor JLINGZ LTD are selected sponsors of the World Cup. They are therefore not permitted to associate the JLINGZ brand with the World Cup. Jesse’s performance of his celebration could be seen as a direct reference to the brand, which it would appear his company wants to develop following the recent applications, and appears to fall foul of FIFA's marketing regulations.

Take home points

Trade mark registration is essential for fashion brands. Further ambush marketing can work. But as with most things, the risk is that the ambushed organisation will look to red card the ambushing brand.