The 2014 World Cup begins in Brazil on June 12, 2014. At least one game will be played every day for the first two weeks and the final game will be held in Rio De Janeiro on July 13. The FédérationInternationale de Football Association (“FIFA”) diligently protects its World Cup trademarks and copyrights. Broadcast stations should be careful not to infringe on these property rights.
FIFA controls the marketing rights of all official World Cup emblems, trademarks, slogans, mascots, and terminology. FIFA licenses these marks exclusively to its commercial affiliates and official sponsors. Unlicensed use of these marks for any purpose, including their use in the sale or promotion of any products, goods or services, is unlawful and could expose a broadcaster and its clients to significant risks.
If a station and/or its clients attempt to create an association with the World Cup by suggesting that there is some relationship between them and the World Cup, the station and/or its clients could be accused of “ambush marketing.” FIFA and its official sponsors could have legal claims against the station and/or its clients for trademark infringement, unfair competition, false advertising, and misappropriation of goodwill for infringing on official FIFA sponsorship rights. Although the use of a disclaimer, such as “not an official sponsor of the World Cup,” may occasionally protect a potential infringer from legal action, the use of such disclaimers is not fail-safe, and can backfire by being seen as an admission that the user does not have actual sponsorship rights.
Under U.S. laws, FIFA has the exclusive right to control the marketing of the 2014 World Cup, including use of the phrases “FIFA,” “World Cup,” “FIFA World Cup,” “2014 FIFA World Cup,” and “2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil,” as well as numerous other World Cup-related designations including the official tournament emblem, the official tournament poster, and the official tournament mascot, “Fuleco.” Trademarks relating specifically to the 2014 World Cup, such as “Brazil 2014,” and “All in one rhythm - Juntos num só ritmo” are also protected trademarks. Other established FIFA marks include: “Fan Fest,” “Soccer World Cup,” and “Mundial 2014.” Unlicensed use of these trademarks for any purpose, including their use in the sale or promotion of any products, goods or services, is unlawful.
Without the permission of FIFA, the following protected words or slogans (or related logos or designs) may not be used in marketing or promotions broadcast on a station or posted on a station’s website:
Stations may say or print the following phrases in a commercial or promotional context:
FIFA and its authorized agents are the only legal sources for World Cup tickets. A purchaser of World Cup tickets agrees to all terms and conditions on the ticket request form, which includes a prohibition on reselling or transferring the tickets. Furthermore, tickets generally may not be used for advertising or promotional purposes unless specifically authorized by or on behalf of FIFA. As a consequence, a station cannot conduct a promotion in which tickets and/or trips to the World Cup are awarded, even if the tickets were validly purchased by the station. If asked to run an advertisement that refers to a World Cup ticket promotion, a station should ask for assurance that the advertiser has the rights and authority to conduct the promotion.
FIFA also holds property rights in the accounts and descriptions of the World Cup, and sells the television and radio rights for the games. FIFA can validly control the use of information about games that are ongoing, and for a reasonable period of time following the conclusion of each game. In addition, tickets to World Cup games will likely include a restriction prohibiting persons located within the stadium from disseminating accounts of the game to the media without authorized press credentials. Unless a station has applied for and obtained press credentials, it may not report on the World Cup from the venue while an event is underway. Once a game has concluded, it is permissible to report the “news” of that game, such as the winner and score.
Courts have held that the copyright owner of a telecast – in this case FIFA and its licensees – has a right to charge a fee for the use of game highlights. Therefore, a station needs to obtain consent from FIFA or the appropriate rights holder before using highlights of any game in a station newscast. The limited case law in this area indicates that the First Amendment may allow the media to report generally on the “news” of an athletic event, such as the winner and score, shortly after it is over, but the First Amendment likely does not allow a station to broadcast, especially prior to the conclusion of a game, video or accounts of a match without specific rights granted by FIFA and its licensees.
Should you have any questions about the legality of broadcasts or marketing promotions relating to the World Cup, we encourage you to review the FIFA Rights Protection Program Brochure or to contact any attorney in our office.