6 January 2023TrademarksStaff Writer

Gloves off as boxing organisations square up over belts

The World Boxing Council (WBC) accused the International Boxing Association of awarding belt that is confusingly similar to its own | Extensive use of the belt provides WBC with trade dress protections, it claims | Professional boxing body will ‘seek redress’ over the issue.

The World Boxing Council (WBC) has accused the International Boxing Association (IBA) of infringing its IP rights following a recent event.

In a press release shared yesterday, December 4 , the WBC—which sanctions professional boxing bouts—claimed that the IBA’s recent IBA’s Champion Night event had awarded a boxing belt that was confusingly similar to its own Championship Belt.

The IBA sanctions amateur boxing matches and awards world and subordinate championships. The recent IBA’s Champion Night took place in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

“In short, IBA is using the IP assets of the WBC in an infringing manner and without authorisation of the WBC as the assets’ rightful owner,” said the WBC.

IBA ‘on notice’ over alleged infringement

The WBC added that it has informed the IBA of its infringement and that it will take any legal measures available to stop the infringing activities and to seek appropriate redress.

It added: “The WBC wants to make it absolutely clear that it has put IBA on notice of the WBC’s complete rejection and opposition to IBA’s unauthorised use of a belt that is confusingly similar to the iconic WBC World Championship Belt.”

In a statement shared with WIPR, the IBA said there was no wrongdoing in the design of its belt.

"IBA received WBC communication regarding the design of the belt used at the 2022 Champions' Night in Abu Dhabi, however, it does not contain any reference to the copyright of the trademarks registered in the UAE, where the event took place," said the IBA.

In this regard, IBA has requested from WBC necessary legal information missed in [the] initial request. Any further actions will be taken by IBA based on the motivated reply from WBC.”

It added: ”IBA reserves its rights to act against unfounded and open accusations damaging IBA reputation."

WBC: IBA is trying to ‘deviate attention’

WBC’s VP and chief legal counsel Alberto León, described the IBA’s comment as “evasive of the issues” and said it was “nothing but a poorly articulated attempt to deviate attention from IBA's violation of the WBC’s trademark and trade dress (commercial image) rights”.

It was notable, León told WIPR, that the IBA was “not denying the similarities” between its belt and WBC’s.

“Under the laws of most, if not all, jurisdictions around the world, trademark and trade dress rights in, for example, a championship belt, are born and established by use. The WBC’s worldwide use of its famous and widely recognised belt for decades, has created a commercial impression among the public of an inextricable association between the WBC and its world championship belt,” he said.

WBC’s “extensive” use and derived public association are all that is needed for the WBC to be the exclusive owner of the IP rights inherent in its belts, León went on.

“It is not necessary for the WBC to register its trademarks and trade dress in the UAE in order to enjoy its exclusive rights and prevent unauthorised and infringing uses of its belts in any country around the world, including the UAE.

“The WBC holds numerous registrations of its trademarks and other IP assets related to its championship belt around the world. IBA's clear violations of the WBC rights over those assets is the central issue here, which IBA has failed to address.”

Russia and Belarus competitions

The WBC has also taken issue with the IBA’s continued allowance of competitions taking place in Russian and Belarus’ territories and for nationals in those countries to compete in IBA tournaments.

In its recent annual convention, the WBC ratified its positions: not to allow any WBC activity in Russian or Belarus’ territories; not to recognise any boxers from those countries as holding any WBC privilege; and to take all boxers from those two countries out of the WBC ratings.

“The WBC would also like to publicly declare its denunciation of IBA’s charter and mission to mix professional and amateur boxing.  IBA’s policies in that regard are dangerous because they foster dangerous fights between athletes that range on levels of competition that endanger the health and safety of participants,” added the WBC.

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