Over the past decade, a number of professional athletes and sports personnel have taken great lengths to obtain trademarks for their names. This has been done so they can capitalize on marketing opportunities for themselves before others can.
Perhaps the most notable of these circumstances in recent memory was in 2014 when Johnny Manziel filed for a trademark on his nickname “Johnny Football.”
In England, ownership of somebody’s name is now coming to the forefront in arguably the world’s most famous league, the English Premier League.
At some point in the next week or so, Jose Mourinho will be named the new manager for the famed futbol club, Manchester United. But when Man United names the Portuguese coach as its new manager, it will possibly start a legal battle with its Premier League rival, Chelsea.
“However, negotiations may now also have to consider the bizarre fact that Chelsea, Mourinho’s former employers, own the rights to his name.
The European Union’s Intellectual Property Office database confirms that ‘Jose Mourinho’ is registered as a trademark of Chelsea Football Club Limited.”
That’s right. Chelsea technically owns the trademark for Jose Mourinho.
For Mourinho, image rights worth millions. Potentially complicated by fact that Chelsea owns trademark to his name! https://t.co/FQ7BboZaz6
— Jake Cohen (@JakeFCohen) May 25, 2016
Mourinho, 53, wasn’t Chelsea’s manager for that long despite the team’s “ownership of his name.” The 53-year-old was the club’s manager first from 2004-2007 and then again 2013-2015.
On September 20, 2007, Mourinho left Chelsea under “mutual consent.” However, it was widely reported the manager left after a series of arguments with the club’s owner, Roman Abramovich.
After his first departure, Mourinho managed Inter Milan from 2008-2010 and then Real Madrid from 2010-2013. He returned to Chelsea in 2013 before leaving again in 2015. On August 7, 2015, Mourinho signed a four-year contract with Chelsea running through 2019. On December 17, 2015, just four months into his new deal, Chelsea parted ways with the manager after the club lost nine of sixteen Premier League games.
“The club wishes to make clear Jose leaves us on good terms and will always remain a much-loved, respected and significant figure at Chelsea. His legacy at Stamford Bridge and in England has long been guaranteed and he will always be warmly welcomed back to Stamford Bridge.” – Chelsea’s Official Statement.
Going back to the trademarking issue, some research done by The Independent discovered that Chelsea filed for the trademark during Mourinho’s first term as manager in March of 2005. The trademark was officially registered in March of 2005 and runs until 2025.
“Mourinho’s name is trademarked under five classes of goods, according to the Intellectual Property Office, for use on products as diverse as aftershave, calculators, shawls and cigarette holders.” – The Independent
It’s not just his name that is trademarked either. Mourinho’s signature was also reportedly trademarked by Chelsea in January of 2006.
While this appears like it could be an issue, it most likely won’t be. Despite the fact that Inter Milan plays in Italy and Real Madrid in Spain, the trademarks weren’t issues for those clubs when they hired Mourinho.
Once Manchester United and Chelsea settle the naming trademark issue, if it needs to be dealt with at all, United can focus on settling sponsorship issues with Mourinho directly. The manager and club each endorse different watch sponsors in Hublot and Bulova respectively. They also work with different car companies as well with Mourinho sponsored by Jaguar and Man United by Chevorlet.