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No way, Jose

A few months ago, we drew a parallel between the dismissal of Jose Mourinho from his position as Manager of Chelsea Football Club and the strife between management and workers at the European Patent Office.

Now, Mr Mourinho is back in the news again, as he and his advisers negotiate terms for his appointment at Manchester United. But it seems there is a problem, one that illustrates the power of intellectual property.

An important part of the remuneration of top sports figures comes from “image rights”, their share of the commercial revenue derived from use of their name or face on merchandise. The problem for Mourinho and Manchester United is that JOSE MOURINHO is a registered trade mark owned by, you guessed it, Mourinho’s former employer, Chelsea FC. Another registration owned by Chelsea even covers Mourinho’s signature.

On the face of it, this means that Man U could be sued for trade mark infringement by Chelsea were they to use the JOSE MOURINHO name in relation to their commercial activities. For such a money machine, being prevented from using the name of their manager in that way would be a major problem.

No doubt attempts will be made to resolve the matter. Man U – or perhaps Mourinho himself – could try to buy the registrations from Chelsea. Or Man U could take a licence from Chelsea (assuming that Chelsea is willing to grant one), though the idea of one major club having to give a share of its revenues to one of its closest rivals is surprising, to say the least.

No doubt this may all be resolved, but in negotiations it would seem that their ownership of the rights to Mourinho’s name will put Chelsea in a rather strong position.

Could there be a stronger illustration of the importance of ensuring that any business secures the rights to its trade marks by registration?

Chelsea may not have had the best season on the pitch, but their astuteness in registering the name of their former manager as a trade mark means that they may score a significant financial goal. Mr Mourinho in the meantime could learn something from one of his fiercest rivals, former Man U manager Sir Alex Ferguson, whose own name is a UK registered trade mark, owned by himself.

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