THE EU GENERAL COURT CONFIRMS THE INVALIDITY OF THE TRADEMARK ‘NEYMAR’ REGISTERED BY A THIRD PARTY TO THE FAMOUS FOOTBALL PLAYER
On May 14, 2019, the General Court of the European Union (Case T-795/17) dismissed the appeal brought by Mr. Carlos Moreira against the decision of EUIPO upholding the application for a declaration of invalidity of the trademark “Neymar”, brought by the football player Neymar Da Silva Santos Júnior (Neymar).
In 2013, Mr. Moreira registered the European word trademark ‘NEYMAR’ for clothing, footwear and headgear. A few years later, the well-known football player Neymar filed an application for invalidity of the trademark on the ground of bad faith, pursuant to Article 59(1)(B) of Regulation 2017/1001, which the Cancellation Division of EUIPO granted in 2016. That decision, challenged by Mr. Moreira, was further confirmed by the second Board of Appeal of EUIPO, which ruled on the appeal in 2017.
Mr. Moreira therefore brought an action before the General Court of the European Union for annulment of the EUIPO’s decision to appeal on several grounds. Although he was aware of the existence of the player at the time of the application for the trademark ‘NEYMAR’, Mr. Moreira claimed that he had not been aware of his international reputation, since the player in question had not yet arrived in Europe; in his view, purely phonetic reasons had led him to choose the sign ‘NEYMAR’.
According to the applicant, bad faith could only have been recognized in the registration of the trademark if the procedure had continued despite the opposition of the footballer, which was not the case here. Moreover, when the application was filed, the name NEYMAR was neither protected as a trademark nor used as such.
The grounds put forward by the applicant were not considered convincing by the EU General Court, which rejected the appeal on May 14, 2019 and upheld the decision of EUIPO declaring the trademark ‘NEYMAR’ invalid.
In first place, the evidence presented by Neymar in the proceedings before EUIPO shows that the Brazilian football player was known internationally by his given name, and that he was famous in Europe, for his performance with the Brazilian national team, several years before his transfer to FC Barcelona in 2013 and, in particular, before the date of filing of the trademark application.
Secondly, the applicant Mr. Moreira had a qualified knowledge of the world of football, having also filed, on the same day, a trademark application for the sign “IKER CASILLAS”, which is the name of another famous Spanish football player. Given the applicant’s knowledge of the world of football, and given the coincidence between the trade mark ‘Neymar’ and the name of the football player, it is impossible that Mr. Moreira was not aware of the existence of the football player at the time of filing the application for registration of the contested trademark.