Marcos Mesa Sam Wordley /
21 November 2014Trademarks

CJEU re-opens Ballon d’Or trademark battle

Europe’s highest court has reignited a long-running trademark dispute surrounding the name of a prestigious world football award and its alleged similarity to a UK sportswear shop.

In a decision released today, (November 21), the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) said the case, between French company Intra-presse and UK couple Gus and Inez Bodur, should be sent back to the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM).

The dispute centred on the Golden Balls sportswear shop in London, which is owned by the Bodurs and Intra-presse, which claimed the store’s name would cause confusion with the Ballon d’Or (ball of gold) football award.

The prize has been handed out by world football governing body FIFA to the world’s best footballer since 2010 after two separate awards, the Ballon d'Or, organised by Intra-presse and the FIFA World Player of the Year award merged.

Under the CJEU's instructions, handed down on Thursday, (November 20), the Board of Appeal at OHIM will now have to assess whether, regardless of actual confusion, the public would establish a link between Golden Balls and Ballon D'Or.

The dispute can be traced back to 2007 when Golden Balls filed an application with OHIM to register its name as a trademark. A year before, Intra-presse had registered its own trademark for the Ballon d’Or.

In light of this, OHIM opted to register Golden Balls' trademark, but only for goods and services that are different from Intra-presse’s registration.

Intra-presse appealed against the decision seeking a judgment from the European Union’s General Court.

In September last year, the General Court sided with the Bodurs. It ruled that Ballon d'Or and Golden Balls were not similar enough to cause customer confusion, even when placed on similar goods including T-shirts and sportswear.

Intra-presse then took the case all the way to the Court of Justice for the European Union, resulting in Thursday’s ruling.

The CJEU partly dismissed Intra-presse's appeal by ruling against them and said that the two trademarks will not confuse consumers even when placed on identical goods and because they're in two different languages.

But the court also found that the General Court didn't go far enough in its findings and did not consider the reputation or recognition of the Ballon d’Or trademark.

The CJEU said OHIM never addressed the issue of the trademark’s recognition in its original assessment.

OHIM, according to the CJEU, must now reassess whether to register Golden Balls and consider whether even a low similarity to the Ballon d'Or trademark could be enough for consumers to establish a link.

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More on this story

20 September 2013   A UK couple has won the right to use the trademark ‘Golden Balls’ for their company following a six-year dispute with the organisers of a prestigious football award.
8 July 2022   The golden trophy had been the subject of a trademark faceoff since 2017.