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Footballers surnames & Stadiums

Posted: Fri Jun 10, 2011 11:26 am
by toffeejules
Hi there, Im currently involved in the development of a football management computer game for online players.

The players are split into different "gameworlds" of 1000 managers in order to manage server loads.

We were discussing what to call these gameworlds so as the managers have an emotional attachment to their chosen world.

The idea came up to use football stadium names (Wembley or Bernabeu), or else footballers surnames (Messi, Lineker) or even football managers names (Ferguson, Mourinho). What I want to know is will this require permissions/licensing? or is it not a problem?

many thanks in advance

Posted: Fri Jun 10, 2011 8:04 pm
by AndyJ
Hi Jules,
First of all the good news. I don't think there are any specific copyright issues here. Normally names of people and places aren't subject to copyright because there is little or no creative input to the prcoess of how they came to be. Even a made up name like 'Harry Potter' doesn't normally qualify for copyright protection.
The bad news is that you will probably need to check out individually each name - especially the stadiums - you wish to use to see if there are any registered trade marks involved. A common name of a location (eg White Hart Lane) probably won't cause any problem, but anything which includes a brand name (eg Emirates) will most definitely be one to avoid, unless you seek a licence.
And even if you cannot find a trade mark registration there may well be the possibility of a club suing for passing-off, ie they feel you are trading off their reputation or intending the deceive the public into thinking that your game is in some way promoted or endorsed by them. This is such a tricky area and as the football 'industry' are keenly protective of their marketing and brands, they will pursue you if they feel they can make half a case, and they have the money to engage high price legal teams. So I suggest you contact a specialist IP lawyer, sports agent or brand-promoter for more specific advice. If you decide to go ahead without specialist advice, make sure you have disclaimers in the documentation acknowledging any trade marks and stating that your game has no connection with the clubs concerned. This will go some way to protecting you against an allegation of passing-off.

Posted: Fri Jun 10, 2011 8:52 pm
by toffeejules
thanks Andy, really appreciate the advice. I think we will steer clear now.