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The logo of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), consisting of a series of black stars on a white background forming the shape of a football, is unquestionably one of the most representative icons of European football and indeed football worldwide.

Despite its fame and dissemination worldwide, UEFA has had trouble registering and protecting its logo in the United States, where the US Copyright Office Review Board has concluded that it does not meet the requirements of US copyright law.

More specifically, in its decision of July 30, 2018 (available in English at this link), the review board held that the logo was insufficiently original (or, in the board’s own words, creative) to merit protection. First, it held that the use of the stars is common in the industry and that placing the stars in the form of a polygon does not confer any originality on the whole. Second, it emphasized the importance of the elements making up the logo exceeding the actual number employed in the arrangement and considered that what should take precedence is the impression created by the design as a whole.

We highlight that this decision will not prevent UEFA from using its logo in the US or even from trying to protect it under trademark law. In fact, UEFA already holds a trademark registration in the US (number 85554259) for a logo using a design much simpler than the one considered by the review board. The significance of this decision is that if it is not appealed and becomes final, UEFA will not be able to rely on the protection afforded by US intellectual property (copyright) legislation, only trademark protection, more limited in scope. The former allows action to be taken against infringement generally, irrespective of its economic importance, but the latter only allows action to be taken against third-party use of the mark that is likely to prevent or interfere with identification of the business origin of goods or services.

By Daniel Urbán

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