(CN) – Reinstating a trademark for Lionel Messi, the European General Court found Thursday that the soccer star is famous enough that his name wouldn’t be confused with a similar-sounding brand.
Considered by many the best player in the world, and by some the best player of all time, Messi plays for FC Barcelona in Spain, as well as the Argentina national team, and has held the player-of-the-year title for the past four years.
He registered a Messi emblem with the EU Office for Intellectual Property in August 2011, but faced a challenge almost immediately because the word mark “Massi” had been registered first in 1996.
As with Messi’s trademark, which covers athletic or sports apparel, footwear and equipment, the Massi trademark covers bike pants and padding. A second Massi mark, filed in 2003, covers bicycle helmets and other protective gear.
After the EU trademark office agreed with challenger Jaime Masferrer Coma that there was a likelihood of confusion between the two marks, Messi brought an appeal to the European General Court.
Siding with the celebrity footballer on Thursday, the General Court’s Sixth Chamber found the confusion factor overblown.
“The degree of similarity between the marks is not sufficiently high to accept that the relevant public may believe that the goods at issue come from the same undertaking or, as the case may be, from economically-linked undertakings,” a press release from the Luxembourg-based court states. “Therefore, EUIPO is wrong to conclude that the use of the trade mark ‘MESSI’ for sports and gymnastics clothing, equipment and protective equipment and instruments could create a likelihood of confusion with the trade mark ‘MASSI’ on the part of consumers.”
Specifically, the General Court found that the marks had conceptual differences that are distinctive enough “to counteract the visual and phonetic similarities identified.”
“Indeed, the Court considers that a significant part of the relevant public will associate the term ‘Messi’ with the name of the famous football player and will, therefore, perceive the term ‘Massi’ as being conceptually different,” the press release states.
An English translation of the ruling is not available on the court’s website.
In addition to concept, the court called it “wrong to consider that the reputation enjoyed by Mr. Messi concerns only the part of the public which is interested in football and sport in general.”
“Mr. Messi is, in fact, a well-known public figure who can be seen on television and who is regularly discussed on television or on the radio,” the press release states.
The court also called it unlikely that an average consumer of sporting goods “will not directly associate, in the vast majority of cases, the term ‘Messi’ with the name of the famous football player.”
“Although it is indeed possible that some consumers have never heard of or remember Mr. Messi, that will not be the typical case of the average consumer who buys sports clothing or equipment,” the press release continues.