Goodwill protection of FULECO, new mascot for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, by the FIFA.

These days every large sporting tournament or event has its own mascot. From a merchandising point of view this is a very clever thing to do. The mascot for the 2014 Soccer World Cup in Brazil is a blue and yellow armadillo with the name FULECO. The question is whether the FIFA has protected their character optimally.

In the past few months Brazilians were allowed to choose the name of the character from the following names: FULECO, ZUZESCO en AMIJUBI. Over 1,7 million Brazilians casted their vote online. FULECO won by a large margin (48% of the total votes). The question that still remained was whether the FIFA had taken sufficient steps to protect the character’s goodwill.Especially considering the fact that it concerns such a large event and they only had three months for the final choice.

A search in the trademark register shows that the first applications were filed in September in France. The three suggested names FULECO, ZUZESCO and AMIJUBI have been filed both as a wordmark and in combination with the character for a large range of goods. Since the trademarks were filed in September last year this may have been done right before the launch. All trademarks have been applied for by a law firm, and were transferred to the FIFA in October.

In general it is a clever idea to register the trademarks in the name of a third party. Third parties who make a living out of infringing famous trademarks often check the online registers in order to find out which new names and characters will be launched prior to any big event. They will quickly try to register those names in countries where the trademark applications have not been filed yet. By registering in the name of a third party the FIFA conceals her identity and prevents others from misuse of information.

In order to protect the rights of the character it appears as if the FIFA primarily focused on trademark rights.By claiming priority when filing in other countries, the protection of trademark rights goes back to the date of original filing in the first country. With this alone the FIFA could have stopped any clandestine third parties. But is this everything? These days mascots and characters are also protected as a (European Community) Design, which would also work quite well as an extra form of protection. Another benefit is that the character can be displayed from multiple angles in one and the same application. The FIFA did not choose to do this, however.

Apart from design rights, there is also the online side of IP protection. The FIFA seemed to have forgotten to think about domain name registrations and social media. Shortly after the introduction of FULECO two different Brazilian persons registered the domain names FULECO.COM en FULECO.NET

In the Netherlands the name FULECO.NL was registered a few days ago, coincidentally right after the press release from the FIFA. The domain nam was registered by The Typocompany. It appears as if the FIFA does not value domain names that much. Not only was FULECO not registered, a domain name such as WKVOETBAL2014 (Dutch for World Championship Soccer 2014) was not registered by the FIFA, but by unknown organizations using a Gmail account. (which makes them less traceable). The Facebook account is also not owned by the FIFA. FULECO Pinterest does seem to be registered for the World Championship Soccer in Brazil.

Conclusion: Apparently the FIFA has a very traditional approach in protecting goodwill, through trademark protection alone, and it seems nobody has given it any extra thought. Actually it is quite incomprehensible that nothing else but trademark protection took place before the FIFA sought publicity for the character. Of course the FIFA, through its lawyers, may take legal action against third parties, but the costs of this are much higher than preventive registrations. Goodwill protection is more than just registering the trademark, especially in the online world we live in today.

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