Manchester United are suing Sega and SI, the publishers and developers of the Football Manager series of computer games, for alleged infringement of their image rights.
United claim that the club’s name is used throughout the game associated with a simplified red and white striped badge rather than the correct club crest.
The club says that this is an inappropriate use of their trademark, reports The Independent.
In simple terms, the club badge is a trademark but the name itself isn’t. So the crest can only be used if a licence fee is paid. The makers of Football Manager therefore use a made up crest instead.
United are thwarted by the fact the company is dodging paying them a licence fee, so their legal challenge is that it is wrongful to associate the club’s name with the wrong badge.
At a remote hearing yesterday, United’s barrister Simon Malynicz QC said ‘consumers expect to see the club crest next to the name Manchester United … and this failure to do so amounts to wrongful use.’
The game makers’ response was that ‘the claimant has acquiesced in the use by the defendants of the name of the Manchester United football team in the Football Manager game and cannot now complain of such use’ – in other words, the club has never objected to use of the name since the game was first published in 1992, so it is too late to object after 28 years.
Another dodge that Sega and SI use is to allow users to download patches made by other companies that do include the correct badge. As it is third party software, it is not their responsibility to pay the licence fee.
Malynicz therefore also asked the judge to allow the club to amend their claim to include a challenge against ‘the practice of supplying “patches” or “mods”, essentially downloadable files containing replica trademarks, which consumers then incorporate into the game’.
He claimed that the game makers ‘encouraged’ the use of third party patches ‘by promoting the patch providers in various ways and, of course, they directly benefited from it by avoiding the need to take any licence and enjoying increased sales of their game’.
Interestingly, in their defence, Sega and SI noted that ‘the claimant’s staff working in the data analytics and scouting teams have contacted SI on various occasions asking for access to the Football Manager database for scouting and research purposes’ – an astonishing admission that United use a computer game for scouting.
Ed Woodward will be signing Alex Hunter next.
United might have to finish their Premier League season at neutral grounds as the authorities try to ensure player safety. How much do you know about those neither-home-nor-away games the Red Devils have played in the past? Take our quiz below to find out.