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Intellectual property clash

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Spanish superclub Real Madrid is waving the big stick against seven online bookies in an attempt to protect the intellectual property rights of five of its biggest names, the Guardian reports.

The club says it has been proven that "these online betting companies use the name of Real Madrid and that of the majority of its players without any type of authorisation, including on numerous occasions using photographs and illustrations of these players with the shirt and badge of Real Madrid," according to sporting director Emilio Butragueno.

The five players in question are Beckham, Figo, Ronaldo, Raul and Zidane. The bookies facing this litigious line-up are BAW International, Mr Bookmaker.com, Victor Chandler, William Hill, Ladbrokes, Sportingbet and Sporting Exchange. The players' contracts with Real awards the club "all proceeds from commercial activity undertaken by the players in the name of the club".

Accordingly, Real Madrid has initiated proceedings in France, Belgium and Germany in order to protect what it sees as its trademarked property. The bookies have reportedly particularly offended the club by "using Real Madrid's name and images of its players in advertising on websites and billboards".

For their part, the bookies say they have not yet received specific grievances. Graham Sharp, a spokesman for Ladbrokes, said: "There is no indication from Real Madrid as to when we may have used unauthorised images and what they have said is couched in such general terms that it is difficult to know what we will be defending ourselves against."

Legal experts, meanwhile, say that the Spanish giant may have difficulty in proving its claim. Intellectual property specialist Sarah Wright told the Guardian that although the most likely line of attack would be the assertion that the defendants had "passed off" a website as endorsed by the club, she warned that "the case would be hard to prove and that Real Madrid would have to show that punters thought that the site was endorsed by Real Madrid and was benefiting commercially".

Wright further noted: "Image rights aren't as strongly protected as brands and you have to go an extra mile to try and enforce them." ®

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