When Brands Get Personal

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ENS

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ENS is an independent law firm with over 200 years of experience. The firm has over 600 practitioners in 14 offices on the continent, in Ghana, Mauritius, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.
Kylian Mbappé is one of the best and most famous footballers in the world, so it comes as no surprise that soon, he'll be heading to what is arguably the biggest football club in the world...
European Union Intellectual Property
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In this article we'll be discussing the trade marks of a few well-known individuals beginning with a world-renowned football player.

Kylian Mbappé

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Kylian Mbappé is one of the best and most famous footballers in the world, so it comes as no surprise that soon, he'll be heading to what is arguably the biggest football club in the world, Real Madrid. Mbappé, known for scoring many goals, tends to celebrate these goals with an unusual gesture – by crossing his arms and tucking his hands under his armpits. Why does he do this, you ask? Well, we aren't really sure, there's no accounting for these things! But it could, of course, be that Mbappé has been advised by some branding guru to adopt a gesture that will become synonymous with him, and therefore becoming his trade mark.

Famous sportsmen are often advised on how they can earn more money to supplement the millions that they already earn from sport. The advice they get is that they can certainly earn additional money through commercial tools like IP protection, particularly trade mark registrations and licensing. Makes one wish that you'd been better advised at a younger age, and spent more time on the sports field and far less time in the classroom!

So what about Mbappé and that gesture of his? Well gestures can indeed be protected through trade mark registrations. Usain Bolt famously registered the very recognisable gesture that he used to do whenever he won, which was, of course, quite often. Mbappé has now applied to register his goal-celebration as a trade mark for a wide range of goods - clothing, footwear, video games, umbrellas, bags, jewellery, cosmetics, toothpastes...the usual suspects!

A magazine article suggests that Mbappé has hundreds of millions of fans and a following of 112 million on Instagram. As a result, we're told that 'his trademarks may soon become notorious to a large range of consumers, especially if he ramps up the manufacture, sale and promotion of a variety of products bearing his brand.'

Luke Littler

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Some of you may not know the name Luke Littler but Luke, who is just 17, is huge in the UK, where he recently reached the final of the World Darts Championship, walking away with GBP200,000.

It's clear that Luke clearly gets branding, or he certainly gets advice from people who do. Luke's trade mark is The Nuke.. so it goes without saying that he is now referred to as Luke the Nuke. The trade mark, The Nuke, will seemingly be applied to a wide range of goods – think darts (no-brainer), clothing, work-out gear, exercise belts, gymnastic equipment, beauty products (perhaps not something you would associate with those who throw darts for a living), cologne, soap, and deodorant. There's talk of Luke earning up to GBP40 million in the course of his career!

Before the World Darts Championship, Luke had earned the grand total of GBP2500 from his sport. So this is a pretty good example of how fame can quickly be converted into wealth! It simply requires IP. And, of course, an excellent IP attorney!

Finally, the Daily Mail newspaper tells us one of Luke's fans is Rishi Sunak who is, of course, the British prime minister (information correct at the time of writing). Imagine being so famous that even the British prime minister knows who you are.

Pablo Escobar

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On 17 April 2024 the Court of Justice of the European Union ("CJEU") issued a press release. The gist of which was as follows:

On 30 September 2021, a company called Escobar Inc, filed an application at the European Union Intellectual Property Office ("EUIPO") to officially register the name Pablo Escobar as a trade mark for a range of goods and services. Older readers will know that Pablo Escobar (1949-1993) was a notorious 'drug-lord' and 'narco-terrorist', and that he founded the infamous Medellin cartel in Colombia. He was a pretty scary dude!

EUIPO rejected the trade mark application on the basis that it was contrary to public policy and accepted principles of morality. This refusal was taken up to the General Court of the European Union. The General Court upheld the refusal.

The General Court applied a test based on the 'sensitivity and tolerance thresholds' of people who 'share the indivisible and universal values on which the European Union is founded'. Values that include human dignity, equality, the principles of democracy, the rule of law and the right to life. The court held that such people would 'associate the name of Pablo Escobar with drug trafficking and narco-terrorism and with the crimes and suffering resulting therefrom, rather than with his possible good deeds in favour of the poor of Colombia'. The decision certainly feels right!

Reviewed by Ilse du Plessis, Executive in ENS' Intellectual Property practice.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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