16 years after the launch of the first Football Manager and 28 years after the first Championship Manager, Manchester United decided to file a lawsuit against Sports Interactive over the use of the club’s name.
According to a striker for The Guardian, Manchester United claims that SEGA and Sports Interactive have infringed its brand.
The publisher and programmer say the use of the club’s name in the series is a “legitimate reference to the Manchester United club in the football context”, and says it has been used in Football Manager and since 1992 in Championship Manager without any complaints.
Miles Jacobson, responsible for Sports Interactive, said he could not comment on the situation.
for obvious reasons, all I can say right now is that I / we can’t talk about ongoing legal proceedings ….
– Miles Jacobson? (@milesSI) May 22, 2020 Manage cookie settings
Since 1992, Sports Interactive has been developing football simulation games and after separating from Eidos in 2003, the work continued, but under the current name of Football Manager. In 2006, it was purchased by SEGA.
United claims that Football Manager infringes the trademark which is the Football Manager logo by not using the official symbol in the game and thus “deprives the registration owner of its right to have the licensed club symbol.”
“Consumers expect to see the club symbol next to the Manchester United name and by failing to do so, it represents harmful use,” argue lawyers for the English club.
For their part, the lawyers at SEGA and Sports Interactive argue that the simplified symbol is “one of 14 generic symbols from which it was chosen randomly by the game engine when a new game starts” and that “indicates that the use of the logo Manchester United has not been licensed. “
Manchester United in Football Manager 2020.
The publisher and the studio also say the club is trying to “prevent legitimate competition in video games by preventing unlicensed companies on the charge of using the Manchester United football team’s name in such games.”
In addition, preventing Football Manager from using the Manchester United name “would be an unreasonable restriction on the right to freedom of expression by restricting the use of the words ‘Manchester United’ to refer to a team in a video game.”
SEGA goes even further and recalls that Sports Interactive has sent copies of Football Manager to club officials and players for years “and there are numerous comments in the press and on social media that they shared about the game.”
“Furthermore, the complainant’s employees working on data analysis and talent search teams have contacted SI on several occasions to request access to the Football Manager database to search for talent and research.”
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, current Manchester United coach, has publicly commented that he started playing Football Manager while he was still at the club and that he even helped him improve his tactics.
“It’s a fantastic game, I learned a lot about football from him,” said Solskjaer in 2013. “I remember thinking at the time what I think now as a coach, you want to give young people the opportunity and see them evolve. Many of my players play FIFA and Football Manager, I think it helps them better understand football. “
Manchester United lawyers also claim that SEGA and SI benefit from mods and patches that allow the introduction of trademark replicas and thus improve their product, without paying any license to those responsible for legal rights.
The use of fictitious names for real clubs is not new, as Konami says with the PES series, but it looks like SEGA will have a problem to solve.