While you channel hop between the FIFA World Cup and the tennis you may have noticed that Roger Federer is no longer resplendent in Nike apparel at Wimbledon this year and is now sponsored by the Japanese brand Uniqlo (he still wears Nike shoes though).
We were very interested to read the article on the Mail & Guardian yesterday titled Is Roger Federer in danger of losing his iconic logo?
The tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) summary for you: it’s not clear exactly what will happen with the RF trade mark in future.
“Roger Federer’s initials have helped define an era of tennis. The two letters, sleekly melded together, have been sewn onto the hats and shirts of thousands of adoring fans. The marketability of the logo is only outpaced by the world’s largest football clubs. For his fans, the badge is emblematic of sporting excellence.”
This is a very exciting trade mark discussion that goes to the first principles of trade mark law. As readers of this blog will know, trade marks act as a badge of origin which communicates to the public that ‘these are my goods/services’. So when potential customers see the RF monogram trade mark do they associate it with Roger Federer or Nike, or both.
Most will agree that matter is not so simple and that it will likely turn on the agreements between Nike and Federer which governed their commercial relationship for many years. Nike, have undoubtedly invested significant sums of money over many years marketing the line of goods under the trade mark.
As Jacqueline Pang writes on The Trademark Lawyer:
“As always, much will depend on the contract between Nike and Roger Federer, and whether and to what extent provision was made for such an eventuality. On the face of it, Nike’s legal position seems strong. It owns a number of trademark registrations around the world for the RF logo and presumably also owns the copyright. Barring anything in the contract to the contrary, it could retain ownership of the brand and continue to exploit it. In that case, it would also be in a position to prevent Federer or any third parties (i.e. Uniqlo) from using the RF logo or anything similar for clothing and related goods.”