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Federer hopeful Nike will serve up its trademark

Roger Federer signed to the Nike brand in 1994 as a promising youngster. It couldn’t have been known at the time that he would go on to become inarguably the best tennis player of all time. In 2006 Nike designed a cardigan for Federer displaying an ‘RF’ logo. That logo has gone on to feature on ranges of clothing, headwear, tennis rackets and tennis bags.

It has been protected in jurisdictions across the world, and is very well-known among tennis fans and players.

In March 2018 Federer and Nike parted ways after a prosperous 24-year relationship, and he now competes in sportswear produced by Uniqlo. Nike, however, still own the RF trademarks (and presumably the underlying copyright). The reigning Wimbledon champion is currently defending his crown wearing Uniqlo gear absent the logo so strongly associated with him.

He addressed the issue after cruising through the first round of the tournament, saying that he hoped “sooner rather than later” Nike will transfer ownership of the marks and copyright to him. He hopes to then be able to wear Uniqlo clothing bearing the logo.

We suspect that it is Federer’s intention to license the RF logo to Uniqlo if he receives it from Nike. It is almost certain that in the contract between Federer and Nike that there are terms governing the ownership of intellectual property after the end of the business relationship. It is also highly likely that the contract governing their relationship has changed somewhat from the one originally agreed in 1994, when Federer was a child.

It will be interesting to see whether this issue is resolved as amicably as Federer seems to expect, or if it will take a court to determine the which party should rightfully be able to exploit the logo.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact the team at McDaniel & Co. on 0191 281 4000 or legal@mcdanielslaw.com.