Manchester United sues Football Manager over 'trademark infringement'

Manchester United sues Football Manager over 'trademark infringement'

By  Sam Jones - 26th May 2020

The Red Devils suddenly aren't happy with how the club is being represented...

Manchester United sues Football Manager over 'trademark infringement'

Millions of us watch the 'Beautiful game', and many of those more than likely enjoy playing Football Manager during their spare time - but this particular sporting stage has been somewhat soured.

News broke over the weekend concerning former Premier League winning club Manchester United and its decision to sue the beloved sports management game Football Manager 2020 from SEGA and Sports Interactive.

MUFC claims that its trademark has been infringed "extensively throughout the game" in a report by The Guardian, as well as - bizarrely - stating that it's an infringement that Sports Interactive has NOT used the official Manchester United badge/crest in the game as they'd replaced the club's crest "with a simplified red and white striped logo" - stating that it "deprives the registered proprietor of its right to have the club crest licensed".

Both Sports Interactive and SEGA has stated in their defense that MUFC's club name in the game has been a "legitimate reference to the Manchester United football team in a football context" and, above all else, has been used in Football Manager and its predecessor Championship Manager since 1992 "without complaint by the claimant" - which is why the file for trademark infringement has stunned the developer and publisher.

Both companies have hit out at the club, which usually plays its home games in front of 70,000 fans at Old Trafford, accusing MUFC of attempting 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".

During the hearing on May 22nd, The Guardian reported that Manchester United barrister Simon Malynicz QC said the money brought in for clubs licensing their names and logos is "very significant" and that in this case "the products and services that are licensed by the claimant benefit from an association with the club's winning culture and its brand values".

Malynicz also said that SEGA and Sports Interactive had "encouraged" the use of third party patches by "promoting the patch providers in various ways and, of course, they directly benefited from it by avoiding the need to take any licence and enjoying increased sales of their game".


Roger Wyand QC, representing the defence of SEGA and Sports Interactive, argued that "The claimant has acquiesced in the use by the defendants of the name of the Manchester United football team in the Football Manager game and cannot now complain of such use."

Wyand as stated that MUFC crest used in the game is "one of 14 generic logo templates that is randomly chosen by the Football Manager game engine each time a new game is started" and that it "clearly indicates that the use of the [logo of] Manchester United is not licensed by the claimant".

He added that copies of Football Manager games have also been sent from Sports Interactive to "a number of officials and players at the [club] for a number of years and there have been a number of positive press comments and tweets about the game by them" and that "the claimant’s staff working in the data analytics and scouting teams have contacted SI on various occasions asking for access to the Football Manager database for scouting and research purposes."

Wyand concluded that there is "no likelihood of confusion or damage to the claimant’s EU trademarks... caused by the defendants’ activities".

The Guardian also stated that Malynicz asked Mr Justice Morgan if the club could amend its claim against SEGA and Sports Interactive to include allegations involving "the practice of supplying ‘patches’ or ‘mods’, essentially downloadable files containing replica trademarks, which consumers then incorporate into the game".

A ruling is yet to be made as Morgan has reserved his judgment on the application to amend the club's claim to a later date.

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