In an effort to prevent counterfeit merchandise, Liverpool Football Club (LFC) has applied to the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK-IPO) to register the iconic image of the Liver Bird, used in LFC's club crest, as a UK trade mark. This has provoked a degree of outrage among many Liverpudlians and LFC has subsequently withdrawn its application in light of this reaction and the City Council's threat of opposition to the application.

Background

Most high profile football clubs have problems with counterfeit goods. LFC believed that registering its version of the Liver Bird as a trade mark would help to protect income that it fears is usually lost to counterfeiters.

LFC therefore submitted an application to register its version of the Liver Bird as a UK trade mark for goods in classes 6, 14, 16, 18, 21 and 25, which includes jewellery, bags, household items and clothing.

The Liver Bird

The mythical bird's image has become a symbol of the city and can be found atop of the city's most iconic building, the Liver Building. It also appears on Liverpool City Council's Royal Charter, and as part of the logo of a number of Liverpudlian schools, charities and businesses, including that of the Liverpool Echo newspaper. It has even inspired a public sculpture by Tracey Emin.

In its defence, LFC has stated that it appreciates that the Liver Bird image is used throughout Liverpool, but that it was only trying to register its specific version of the image. Angry councillors and rival Everton and Tranmere Rovers fans have voiced their belief that this move was orchestrated by LFC's American owners, who they argue, had failed to comprehend the Liver Bird's cultural meaning and significance to the people of the city. Councillors feared that if LFC had been successful in its application to the UK-IPO, it could have restricted use of the mark by the City Council and others and that LFC may have attempted to charge for use of the mark in the future.

LFC can take some solace in the fact that its crest (in its entirety) is already a registered trade mark, as are the phrases "This is Anfield" and "You'll Never Walk Alone".

Comment

LFC has bowed to public pressure to drop its application, but if its application had been successful, would it have done any good in the fight against counterfeiting? This is questionable, as the Liver Bird exists in many forms, which are naturally very similar. It would likely still have been possible for counterfeiters to use another version of the image to avoid breaching LFC's registered mark.