Penalty for using 2018 FIFA symbols
The Directorate of the Federal Antitrust Service for Volgograd Region (“FAS”) for the first time delivered a judgement in a case on unlawful use in an advertisement of symbols of 2018 FIFA World Cup that will take place in Russia.
The FAS committee arrived at a conclusion that simultaneous use in the advertisement of the National Emblem and words “Football 2018” and “Volgograd 2018” along with the “Volma” trademark misleads into thinking that manufacturers of products under this brand are engaged in forthcoming matches within the 2018 FIFA World Cup. As a result, this advertisement was recognized as inappropriate under Article 20 of the Federal Law “On preparing and holding the world football championship in Russia.” The violator will be held liable for an administrative offence under Article 14.3 of the Administrative Offences Code and fined in the amount from 100,000 to 500,000 rubles. The advertiser received an order to eliminate the violation.
To date, all World Cup visual design elements have lawful rightholders and are legally protected. Moreover, the following items tied to the forthcoming sport event are also registered: trademarks, including word combinations “2018 World Cup,” “Russia 2018,” “Moscow 2018,” “Volgograd 2018,” “Nizhniy Novgorod 2018,” “Ekaterinburg 2018,” image of the world cup, tournament logo, etc.
Please note that unlawful use of protected symbols entails civil, administrative and even criminal liability (although the latter is not applied in practice). The Civil Code provides for compensation of up to 5 mln rubles for each case of unlawful use of a counterfeited product or amounting to double the value of a similar licensed product/service.
Moreover, actions of businesses aimed at misleading and creating a wrong impression as to their engagement in 2018 FIFA pursuant to current laws can be recognized as an act of unfair competition and can entail legal consequences specified by Russian antitrust law. Such actions include, first of all, sale of goods and provision of works and services accompanied by unlawful use of the tournament symbols, marketing aimed at certain ideas being associated with FIFA, misleading that the manufacturer of goods and/or advertiser is/are affiliated with FIFA, etc.
In the run-up to major international sport events, the antitrust authority takes a fairly active part in preventing violations of such nature. In particular, during 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi some major hotel networks were held liable for unlawful use of Olympic symbols.
Also, during 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi the antitrust authority recognized actions of a major car distributor on selling cars with the “Olympic White” color along with unlawful use of the trademark containing Olympic symbols, as an act of unfair competition.
Symbols and words that one way or another can be associated with the forthcoming Football World Cup should be used with extreme caution.
As practice shows, such actions of businesses entail both administrative and civil liability. In particular, administrative sanctions are imposed by the antitrust authority in the form of a fine. In turn, civil liability can take the form of compensation to a rightholder for unlawful use of intellectual property.
Head of Antitrust Practice
Should any questions arise in connection with the above or if you need any additional materials, please contact Irina Akimova or Dmitry Gavrilenko, Moscow Office of Capital Legal Services.
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