It must go down as one of the most absurd controviersies in modern brand marketing involving an old and proud football club. Spain’s reknowned FC Valencia will have to brace themselves for a legal battle with American powerhouse DC Comics, since the latter accuse the club of an infringement of their own famed Batman trademark. The dispute resurfaced, when Valencia launched a special bat logo for their anniversary and DC filed an official complaint to the European Union Intellectual Property Office. It’s just that the FC Valencia sported a logo with a bat many years before DC registered a trademark for their superhero. And is there really a problem with more or less similar bats in a football crest and in a comic universe? If so, it seems a lot of clubs would have to think about it.
Controversy about FC Valencia’s logo and DC Comics’ Batman
The case is quite simple. DC Comics think their logo of batman, which made its first appearance in 1939, is used without authorisation by the Spanish top club FC Valencia. That very dispute had been there a few years back and it now comes back to the fore as the club celebrate a hundred years since their founding.
Even a century back, it’s clear to see, the club had a bat integrated in their logo – and they probably weren’t thinking about trademark matters at all. A hundred years forward, Valencia created a new logo which emphasises the bat more and which shall be used to lead the club into a new era as a brand.
The bat has belonged to the city of Valencia’s heraldry since the Medieval Age. Relating to this connection, the club state on their website that the logo is there
to accompany us in this new era that begins, the icing on the most beautiful crest in the world. It represents what we are and where we are going. An eternal sentiment.
Now the American brand DC Comics, would like the club to relinquish their new logo and have taken legal advice as several media, such as El Confidential report. The overseas brand had registered the Batman logo as a trademark decades ago, yet, are that unhappy about Valencia’s new logo they threaten to sue them in the EU.
Their official complaint at the EUIPO, though, has right now led to a so-called cooling off. According to El Confidential, that allows the Spanish club to sport the badge at least until October 2020; and they can find an arrangement, should DC insist on their stance. Sources of the Spanish publisher think otherwise and predict that DC will eventually let go of the case. Especially, because the FC Valencia will play hardball themselves as they don’t believe you can have a monopoly for the use of bats in your logo.
We are not going to stop using the bat because DC Comics says it, there is no commercial brand that has a worldwide exclusive on bats. When this club played with a bat in the chest, in the United States they were chasing bison.
said a spokesperson of the club rather polemically. Not for the first time have DC approached the FC Valencia, in 2013 they also objected a new crest for the club assuming it would infringe their very own trademark. The BBC reported on that and the club later abandoned plans for a newly-created logo. This time around, it doesn’t look like Valencia are giving in as brand awareness, tied to a modern logo, is becoming ever more important for successful football clubs.
Resemblances are always there
As crazy as it seems, defending your own trademark is a very important measure for big brands these days. But, where is the problem with the FC Valencia selling merch and shirts with their unique bat club logo and DC exploiting their comic universe for gaming and cinemas? Yes, that’s a simple thought. And well, both brands do sell merchandising products, but it’s not like they do have the same logo upon it. Still, who would be confused in the different contexts? It looks like DC are flexing their muscles – but they could end up being defeated despite their heroes’ superpowers. For a reasonable eye will see that there are always resemblances of football clubs’ crests and some other brands. A user on Imgur underlines that in a picturesque way.
It might even come to more of such disputes. But the clubs have often been there before the brands who think they can trademark or copyright certain simple visual patterns. Let’s hope the FC Valencia prevail representative for all the proud clubs around the world with their reknowned, famed and wonderful logos. But using those more and more for commercial reasons will have them in need of making sure of their own trademark protections. For a brand – and that goes for football brands these days more than ever – needs a recognisable logo. In Social Media, on their kits and certainly in the eyes of their old and future fans and followers. They shouldn’t forget, though, that some simplistic designs are just not made to be claimed for only one entity.