Businesses urged not to get caught offside during World Cup

Businesses who are using the world cup to boost business over the summer should take care not to breach any copyright rules.

Clive Halperin, an Intellectual Property expert and Partner at City law firm GSC, is warning businesses that if a they inadvertently infringe World Cup copyright or suggest they are linked to the FA or FIFA in any way, they could face substantial financial penalties.

Many businesses are currently capitalising on the football tournament by running World Cup promotions and stocking promotional goods, however some may not realise that certain logos, players, emblems and teams are protected by copyright law.

Mr Halperin commented: “Hotels, cafes, pubs, retailers, websites and other businesses around the Capital will be capitalising on the World Cup by selling all manner of merchandise and services. However, I would urge any business, no matter what size, to check they are adhering to some of the essential copyright and trademark guidelines and have licences in place.

Whilst businesses are within the law to organise campaigns around the event, football authorities, players and clubs are notoriously keen to protect their brands. Arsenal football club, for example, pursued a seller of unauthorised club merchandise outside its stadium through to the Court of Appeal even though the seller had a sign on his stall saying that they were not official products from the club. “

Halperin has written a short guide for businesses running World Cup promotions.

What a business can do

  • Refer to the World Cup (as long as there is no suggestion of FIFA involvement or endorsement)
  • Use national flags or imagery such as the St George’s Cross
  • Use photographs of players and stadiums with permission of the copyright owner (but you will need additional permissions if there are any suggestions of endorsement or if the photos incorporate club or country logos)
  • Use photographs of officially licensed merchandise to promote the sale of those goods (e.g. you can use a photo of an official video game to promote that game but you must not give the impression that you too are an official sponsor)


What a business can’t do

  • Use any FA or FIFA logos or mascots without getting a special licence
  • Give any impression that you are an official supplier
  • Give any impression that you are being endorsed or recommended by FIFA, the FA or individual players
  • Mislead any consumers, for example, by falling foul of any prohibitions on misleading advertisements.
  • Use marketing that is defamatory (e.g. unfairly disparage a player)


Using the term “World Cup”

Businesses can promote their products or services using the phrase “World Cup” but as it’s a registered trade mark, the phrase “World Cup” must be used with extreme care. The key is avoiding any suggestion that FIFA are involved with or endorsing the promotion or the products.

For example, a pub sign promoting that World Cup games will be shown in the pub will be acceptable, provided there is no suggestion that FIFA are endorsing the pub. However, a banner that says “FIFA World Cup” may land you in trouble because it may suggest that FIFA are involved in the promotion.

T-shirts with the words ‘World Cup’ on it may be fine if it is not suggesting official involvement or endorsement (such as “My mate went to the World Cup and all he brought back was this shirt”). However, it will be an infringement to reproduce or suggest that the clothing is official merchandise liked with the South Africa 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Using World Cup images such as the World Cup trophy

Using an image of the World Cup trophy, the three lions logo or even the word ‘FIFA’ could very likely lead businesses into trouble. Businesses mustn’t use any branding that could be confused with such authorities or teams unless you have a licence.

Using photographs and logos

Even if you have licensed a photograph of a player, this does not mean that you can use his image to promote your product. TalkSport Radio ran into trouble when they used a photograph of a well known Formula 1 driver without the proper permissions.

Club and country logos may have strict copyright protection stopping you using even photographs of the players in their kit where the logo is an important part of that photograph – football sticker manufacturers have run into this problem in the past.