'11 of Hearts' Trademark: Why Bale Should Consider a Transfer to Guernsey
In recent years, sport has been no stranger to bizarre trademark claims, especially in the US. As World Sports Law Report highlighted in its April edition, National Basketball Association (NBA) star Jeremy Lin last year sought to trademark 'Linsanity', a phrase coined following a winning streak. He has been followed by another NBA star, Antony Davis, who has sought a number of copyrights based on his trademark 'unibrow'; and National Football League star Tim Tebow, who has trademarked his touchdown celebration as 'Tebowing'.
It appears that Tottenham Hotspur player Gareth Bale - or more likely agents who represent him - has been watching. Bale has sought to trademark his '11 of Hearts' goal celebration with the UK's Intellectual Property Office. Whether the IPO will accept such an application remains to be seen, however there is a jurisdiction where such an application would be welcomed - Guernsey.
The Channel Island, just off the coast of French Normandy, is a British Crown dependency, but as it is not part of the United Kingdom or the European Union, creates its own laws. At the end of 2012, the Channel Island of Guernsey created the world’s first registrable image right that can register a person’s image, nicknames, videos, mannerisms and distinctive characteristics. Tennis's Heather Watson has registered her image, and law firm Collas Crill IP was behind the deal.
'The very notion of image rights is hugely problematic from a UK perspective', wrote David Evans and Jason Romer of Collas Crill IP in the June edition of World Sports Law Report. 'Under UK law, there is no definition of an image right per se, and the Courts have struggled with various ways in order to try to fill this gap. The Guernsey Image Right allows your clients to register their images, nicknames, videos, mannerisms and any distinctive characteristics that identify them. These rights will be registered on the register and can include all of those features that are so difficult to define in a contract. We have all grappled with what a ‘gesture’ or ‘mannerism’ means in that definitions section before - now it really means something and can be directly referred to in relevant contracts'.
Perhaps Bale and his advisors should consider an IP transfer from the UK to Guernsey…