March 22, 2023
DUUUVAL cry of appeal goes unheeded by the General Court
DUUUVAL cry of appeal goes unheeded by the General Court

The EU General Court has dismissed the NFL’s appeal over the successful opposition to its EU Trade Mark application for the word DUUUVAL which is the rallying cry used by fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars American Football team. The fans chant DUUUVAL at matches in reference to Duval County in Florida within which the city of Jacksonville sits.

In 2019 the NFL applied to register this word in relation to certain sporting and entertainment services but it was successfully opposed by the owners of an earlier EUTM for the logo mark 


also covering class 41 on the basis there would be a likelihood of confusion. The EUIPO held, due to the broader terms in the earlier registration, the services at issue were identical and that the marks were confusingly similar given the prominence of the DUVAL element in the prior mark (especially from, as an example, a French speaker’s perspective). The NFL appealed this first to the Board of Appeal and then to the General Court, in particular arguing errors in the assessment of identity of services and comparison of the marks but the appeals were both dismissed. The full General Court decision can be found here.

I feel there is nothing surprising in the result of the appeal on the merits - the DUUUVAL chant is not inherently unregistrable as a word trade mark and has been accepted in the UK and so it seems it was unfortunate that there was the EU prior right - but it got me thinking about sports chants as trade marks.

There are a number of other sports chants registered as trade marks in the UK and EU. For example, YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE (as sung by Liverpool Football Club fans) is registered as a trade mark (as is the acronym YNWA) and so is GLORY GLORY MAN UNITED, both owned by the respective clubs.

The DUUUVAL mark feels slightly different as the spelling captures the roar of the chant that is so powerful and distinctive in a stadium. In its elongated vowels it reminds me of the deep roar of ROOOT at an England Cricket match. That leads on to the thought of should sports brands/clubs/players be looking into protection of their distinctive chants also as audio marks? Despite the historic challenges of registering sound marks there is an increased interest in this including for advert idents and competition jingles and in our experience an increased acceptance by the UK and EU IPOs of the public perception of sounds as trade marks. Stobbs has handled a number of such registrations. I wonder if we might shortly see, for example, the Iceland Football team protecting their awesome Viking Thunder Clap chant as a sound mark?

Trademarks /  Sport /  Disputes

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