Firms Trading off the World Cup risk Copyright Infringement

Small firms using the World Cup to boost trade could risk substantial fines if they breach the tournament’s copyright rules, City law firm GSC has warned.

Businesses using official logos, emblems and mascots without permission are likely to be forced to stop sales or face a stiff fine from organising bodies FIFA and the FA, according to intellectual property expert Clive Halperin, a partner at GSC.

“Even using phrases such as ‘FIFA World Cup’ and ‘South Africa 2010’ is likely to infringe regulations.”

“If any promotion of your product or service somehow trades off the World Cup, in the wording or imagery that you use, you need to tread extremely carefully,”

added Halperin.

“Small firms might feel that they were ‘under the detection radar’ of FIFA and the FA, but there is a real risk that they might be made an example of.”

“While businesses are within the law to organise campaigns around the event, football authorities and clubs are notoriously keen to protect their brands and their rights. I would urge any business, of any size, to check they are adhering to some of the essential copyright and trademark guidelines, and have licences in place.”

Under the rules, businesses are allowed to refer to the World Cup in posters and branding as long as there is no mention of FIFA involvement or endorsement.  However, using images of the World Cup trophy or the three lions logo without a licence is not allowed. 

Equally, firms are entitled to use photographs of official merchandise to sell products, but they must not give any impression that they are an official sponsor.   

A legal disclaimer stating there is no affiliation with the World Cup or the England team might be one way to avoid legal action, according to Halperin. But he said this would not be enough to overcome “in your face” suggestions of endorsement.

Federation of Small Businesses spokesman, Stephen Alambritis said big sporting tournaments like the World Cup and London 2012 were increasingly “off limits” to small firms looking to increase sales.

“It’s becoming more and more difficult for businesses to reap any marketing benefits around these sorts of events. But we’d urge firms to be clever about it ― check the guidelines, remove any references to FIFA on any promotional material and if in doubt, take legal advice.”

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