Even if you are someone who does not completely understand the offside rule, it is more than likely that you are aware Brazilian footballer Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, who is more commonly known as "Neymar", has been a pretty big deal in the world of football for quite some time.
Neymar's rapid rise to global stardom since his professional debut in 2009 is certainly difficult to deny, but this is exactly what Portuguese businessman Carlos Moreira attempted to do in his recent challenge of the EUIPO's decision to invalidate Mr Moreira's NEYMAR trade mark.
Mr Moreira applied to register NEYMAR as an EU trade mark (EUTM) in 2012 in class 25 for clothing, footwear and headgear. However, the EUIPO upheld an application for invalidity by Neymar in 2016, a decision which was then confirmed by the EUIPO's Board of Appeal the following year.
Mr Moreira objected to the Board of Appeal's assertions that Mr Moreira must have been aware that Neymar "was a rising star in football whose talent was recognised internationally at the relevant date" and that registration of the mark was simply an attempt by Mr Moreira to "exploit the intervener’s renown" for his own benefit.
General Court's ruling
On 14 May 2019, the EU General Court upheld the decision of the Board of Appeal and ruled that Mr Moreira was acting in bad faith under Article 59(1)(b) of the EUTM Regulation (2017/1001) when he applied for registration of the NEYMAR trade mark. (The judgment can be read here: Carlos Moreira v EUIPO T-795/17.)
One of Mr Moreira's key arguments in the proceedings was that Neymar's fame had not yet travelled across the North Atlantic Ocean when he filed the mark in 2012. But, considering that there were multi-million pound bids from English Premier League teams such as West Ham United and Chelsea from as early as 2010, Mr Moreira's success with this point might have been as surprising as Leicester City's Premier League win back in 2016.
At this point, you might be forgiven for thinking that this decision is not quite as black and white as Newcastle United's home strip. It is of course conceivable that Mr Moreira knew very little about football and that the registration of the NEYMAR mark during a period of Neymar's ever-increasing international publicity was nothing more than, in Moreira's words, "a mere coincidence". However, the General Court noted that Mr Moreira's application for the IKER CASILLAS mark (Iker Casillas being a goalkeeper for both Real Madrid and the Spanish national team since the year 2000) on the very same day that he filed the NEYMAR mark, supported the court's conclusion that Moreira had substantial knowledge of international football and was equipped to exploit it.
In any event, if Mr Moreira really did not appreciate the weight of Neymar's fame back in 2012, he certainly will now.
With special thanks to trainee, Marissa Beatty, for her contribution to this article.