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Manchester United SUE Football Manager creators over alleged trademark infringement

Manchester United are suing the creators of the Football Manager video game series due to the popular franchise allegedly infringing its trademark by using the club’s name.

United claimed that their name features ‘extensively throughout the game’, and have taken legal action against Sega Publishing and developer Sports Interactive. 

The club have also argued that both companies infringed its trademark over its logo, due to the simulation not using the official United crest. The logo has instead been replaced by ‘a simplified red and white striped’ design.

United believe that this depiction ‘deprives the registered proprietor of its right to have the club crest licensed’.

Sega Publishing and Sports Interactive said they have been legitimately using United’s name in a football context across all versions of Football Manager, and its predecessor, Championship Manager, since 1992 without complaint. 

The two companies accused United of attempting to ‘prevent legitimate competition in the video games field by preventing parties not licensed by the claimant from using the name of Manchester United football team within such games’.

United barrister Simon Malynicz, at a preliminary remote hearing on Friday, said that the club’s name ‘is one of the world’s most valuable and recognised brands’ – and also explained that the money teams make from licensing their names and logos was significant. 

Malynicz alleged that ‘consumers expect’ to see United’s crest next to the name of the club, and that the failure of Football Manager to do this ‘amounts to wrongful use’.

Sega and Sports Interactive also ‘encouraged’ the use of downloadable patches containing replica trademarks, supplied by third parties, Malynicz also said. 

United alleged that the defendants ‘directly benefited from it by avoiding the need to take any licence and enjoying increased sales of their game’.

Roger Wyand QC, representing Sega and Sports Interactive, argued that the ‘simplified’ club badge used for United in the game ‘was one of 14 generic logo templates that is randomly chosen by the Football Manager game engine each time a new game is started’.

Wyand also explained that copies of the game had been sent to a number of United officials and players for several years, and that ‘there have been a number of positive press comments and tweets about the game by them’.  

In the written defence to United’s claim, Wyand added: ‘Further, the claimant’s staff working in the data analytics and scouting teams have contacted SI on various occasions asking for access to the Football Manager database for scouting and research purposes.’  

The case judge, Mr Justice Morgan, reserved his judgment on United’s application to amend its claim to a later date. 

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