Aug 14, 2018

Is MMA as popular as football?

The question has been pondered by the District Court of The Hague during a battle between McGregor IP (a Dutch fashion brand) and Reebok over the use of the word "McGregor" on clothing.

Reebok had been selling t-shirts, shirts, hoodies, and shorts displaying the sign "Conor McGregor", although the word "Conor" is much less prominent: it is in a significantly smaller font and is not visible unless inspecting the goods close-up.

McGregor IP claimed that Reebok's use of the sign infringed its trademark for the word "McGregor", and that the word "Conor" was insignificant in this context given the lack of prominence.

The Court agreed that the small size of the word "Conor" meant that the sign should be assessed as if it were just "McGregor" alone, as the public may not always inspect closely such items of clothing. In response to this Reebok submitted that the name Conor McGregor should be assumed to have the same reputation and reach as that of well-known footballers.

In dismissing that line of argument, the Court stated that MMA is a niche sport, is not as popular as football in Europe, and as such the name McGregor could not be deemed to have the same cache, reputation, or reach. The Court also dismissed Reebok's argument that the fighter is so well-known that the general public would immediately think of him when they saw the word "McGregor". The Court held that unlikely, and that it was much more likely that the public would infer some commercial link between Reebok and McGregor IP. The "general public" in this test were Dutch consumers, so do not fear if you have never heard of McGregor IP and wouldn't make the same assumption.

If you aren't sure who Conor McGregor is, then you have proved the Court correct in its assessment. He is a mixed martial arts fighter who is due to return to UFC this year following an unsuccessful hiatus to try out boxing. While he may be the best-known UFC fighter of all time, the sport is still not mainstream and its overall viewership is dwarfed by football.

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.

Posted by: in: EU/International, Trade Marks

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