Every major soccer team aims to be the world’s biggest and wealthiest, and Liverpool Football Club (LFC) is no exception. To that end, it has just tried to register a trademark for the name of its home city—and failed. No comparable sporting entity has ever successfully registered such a trademark, either.
LFC is one of the world’s biggest sporting brands. The reigning European soccer champion has won more trophies than any other English team and has a fanbase that extends across the world, far beyond its home in a corner of northwest England. Its owner is Boston-based Fenway Sports Group (FSG), which also owns the Red Sox.
Since FSG’s takeover in 2010, which rescued the club from the brink of bankruptcy under its previous American owners, Liverpool’s fortunes have vastly improved, on and off the field. It is now financially stable and the team, led by international superstars like Dutchman Virgil van Dijk and Egyptian Mohamed Salah, is one of the world’s best. The trademark would have allowed the club to monetize far more goods and services, and capitalize even more on the name of a famous, culturally-significant city.
But the UK’s intellectual property office refused the club’s application because Liverpool has “geographical significance.” In other words, the name of the city is about much more than its famous soccer club. LFC says it accepts the decision, but will “aggressively pursue those large-scale operations which seek to illegally exploit our intellectual property.” As with all coveted brands, there are plenty of counterfeiters.
Some of the team’s own fans were upset by the attempt to trademark their hometown’s name. The city of Liverpool has two important soccer institutions, of more or less equal importance to the area. Although Everton Football Club is not doing too well at the moment, it too has a proud and successful history, and is deeply engrained in the psyche of Liverpudlians. And for millions of Beatles fans, Liverpool will always be more closely associated with John, Paul, George, and Ringo than a soccer team.