With the 2014 FIFA World Cup coming up in Brazil times are busy for organizer The Fédération Internationale de Football Association, FIFA. FIFA continuously takes action against ambush marketers, advertising or promoting around the World Cup without authorization.
The preparations of the 2014 FIFA World Cup were initiated several years ago and an important part thereof has been the work with trademarks. FIFA has developed and protected an assortment of words, logotypes, titles, symbols and other trademarks, for example FIFA, WORLD CUP, COPA 2014 and BRAZIL 2014. FIFA recognizes the commercial rights to the FIFA World Cup as its greatest commercial asset and the fact that it is essential that they protect the integrity of the event’s brand for several reasons. The fact that FIFA would not be able to stage the event without the support of commercial affiliates is one of the main reasons for protecting an exclusive use of the trademarks.
In order not to risk losing its legal rights to the exclusive use of the trademarks FIFA therefore continuously work against any unauthorized use of its trademarks and had already by June 2013 taken action against 100 ambush marketers somehow trying to take advantage of the interest and profile of the event by creating a commercial association or seeking promotional exposure without the authorization of FIFA. Also, counterfeit products bearing FIFA’s official trademarks without the required license such as footballs, keychains and toys is a problem which FIFA needs to deal with.
FIFA works with brand protection in three steps. The first step is communication, meaning that FIFA in order to avoid accidental unauthorized use communicate the regulations through awareness campaigns. The next step and important element in the brand protection work is surveillance in order to identify trademark infringements. An example thereof is the enactment of Commercial Restriction Areas (CRAs) around the stadiums and other official sites. The CRA is an imaginary line wherein local laws provide additional legal protection against prohibited marketing activities without limiting any commercial activities not specifically targeting the FIFA event. Enforcement is the third step in the brand protection. When detecting an infringing situation FIFA’s brand protection team assesses the most effective way to bring the situation to an end, without having to resort to disproportionate enforcement actions. In more serious situations where the intention to take a free ride on the goodwill of the FIFA trademarks is clear, FIFA may need to engage in court proceedings to put the infringement to an end and to seek financial compensation. However, according to FIFA their approach to brand protection still focuses rather on education and guidance. The results thereof will be well visible this summer.
Hanna Hansson, Attorney at Law