FIFA World Cup Trademark Infringement
The 2014 World Cup is in full swing, and futbol fans across the globe are sporting their favorite teams, but among these jerseys, caps and shoes are thousands of counterfeit products. Back in 2013, Customs even found over 500,000 counterfeit garments from a shipment from China and a majority of them displayed the 2014 Federation Internationale de Football Association (“FIFA”) World Cup Brazil Logo. FIFA has stressed to fans that their organization generates a majority of its income from sponsors and merchandise, reflecting the importance of preventing the sale of counterfeit goods.
Now host country Brazil is trying its best cracking down on merchants who are selling unofficial shirts and other merchandise that showcase the FIFA logo or something affiliated with FIFA in the vicinity of the games. This problem is raising some major trademark and copyright issues.
These merchants are engaging in “ambush marketing,” a strategy where advertisers falsely associate themselves with a particular event without paying any sponsorship fees. An example of this strategy is to use the official sponsor’s brand (name, logo or slogan) in relation to its own goods. In this case, these merchants are essentially passing-off as official sponsors, reaping the benefits of FIFA’s well-known status. This is clearly an infringement, so many companies have found other ways of creating this association without infringing, like using images of Brazil or soccer games without mentioning the World Cup or FIFA.
Under a special Brazilian World Cup Law, there is a 2-kilometer circular area around each venue hosting the games. Inside that area, only official World Cup sponsors’ products can be sold, distributed, or advertised. According to the General Law of the World Cup, anyone caught selling unofficial products could be held in prison for 3 months to a year, and may be fined.
These counterfeited goods are hard to spot, but FIFA has stated on their website a few ways to spot fake World Cup merchandise. First, the cost. A genuine FIFA jersey can cost between $90 – 150 dollars, while the “same” product from another merchant can cost as little as $25. Also according to FIFA, all official products have the World Cup hologram, official sewn-in labels, and there are restrictions on the amount of branding and sponsor logos on one product.
So, if you are like millions of people sporting your favorite futbol team, be careful of a transaction that may make you a victim of organized crime.