“Brand it like Beckham” – Image Rights and Personal branding

Protecting your ‘brand’


Branded merchandising and celebrity endorsement is big business today. It is believed that almost two-thirds of total marketing spend of UK companies is on sport related marketing.

Sports clubs and the individual players particularly have increasingly become aware of the commercial value of their images and are selling clothing, computer games, sports equipment, and almost anything else.

What is clear is that these image rights can be owned, what goes with ownership is the power to exploit; therefore licensing.

Registration of a trade mark gives the owner an exclusive right to use the mark for certain goods and services, licensing the use of such marks can generate lucrative licence fees and royalties. It also entitles the owner to prevent third parties from using it without first having to establish reputation and goodwill under that brand. Everyone is aware of the soccer player David Beckham and the lengths he has gone to register his brand.

Any use of the name, image or brand of a sport personality like David Beckham, without authorisation, is likely be stopped by taking to legal action, but the very fact that it is properly protected can often avoid legal action altogether – as the threat of the action is often enough.

It is therefore imperative that sports personalities take the initiative to register their rights as early as possible, and before others take advantage. It seems that Jose Mourinho did not get this memo, but Chelse Football Club did – see http://www.thebusinessdesk.com/westmidlands/news/735520-the-11-names-on-mourinho-s-trademark-teamsheet.html?news_section=5

Exploiting the full value and potential of the brand


A personality’s image should be governed by an agreement between the parties at least stating who controls those image rights, what image is being exploited, the scope of the use and where it is going to be used – and of course the financial consideration.

The ownership of image rights can be owned by the individual, a commercial corporate vehicle they control, the team or the league that they play in, or the federations in charge of the sport.

Whichever way the rights are owned, with such commercial value at stake, you would certainly want to have certainty over your image rights or your right to use other peoples’ image rights.

For more information contact Manish Joshi at manish.joshi@joshi-ip.law

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *