Sports teams and logos

Advice for those new to the concepts of copyright
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Sports teams and logos

Post by Sportsboardgames123 »

Hi I am developing some sports board games and I want to find out what is or isn't possible. Rather than playing Player A vs Player B the games format involves playing mini leagues and cups and being able to be one team playing against another e.g. a world cup or FA cup, so this involves having a card that is representative of each team, and would be better with a wide choice (over 100) of teams. Having cards representing teams would just be a component of the game, albeit an important one, but not the 'game' itself (not something like top trump cards games for example) So I wanted to ask about the copyright issues of 2 different scenarios should the games ever become a commercial proposition.

Scenario A

Each card would have a 'real world' team name (club or international), and team badge and a retro style kit home kit on one side, change kit on the reverse. I'm guessing this would infringe copyright - but is it worth approaching each club and asking for their permission?

Scenario B

I create 100 plus cards with individual kits and leave it to each player to associate a particular kit, in their imagination, to a real world team. E.g. In Rugby Union an all black kit could be New Zealand, or Neath or Saracens or wasps or any side that has ever worn all black. In football, an all red kit could be Aberdeen, China, Liverpool, England. It would be up to the player to decide which team they want a certain card to be. Are there any copyright issues here?
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Re: Sports teams and logos

Post by AndyJ »

Hi Sportsboardgames123,

It's not just copyright that needs to be considered here. There is also the matter of trade marks which apply particularly to club and league logos, and also to the club names in many cases. Some clubs may also have registered their distinctive strips as designs.

Scenario A could run up against all three of the intellectual property rights to some extent. It would therefore be safest to seek permission, but I wouldn't expect this to be easy or cost-free. The clubs make a lot of money from their merchandise and they don't like other people profiting from something they can exploit themselves. For this reason their trade marks are usually registered for a wide range of goods and services. As an example, Newcastle United have registered their logo in, amonst others, class 16 which covers printed material including playing cards. And they tend to enforce their rights fairly rigourously in order to stop parasitical traders cashing in on their reputation.

Scenario B would be much safer as there will generally be no protection for generic coloured shirts, or even simple patterns and mixtures of colours.
Advice or comment provided here is not and does not purport to be legal advice as defined by s.12 of Legal Services Act 2007
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