Manchester United have went to battle in many different venues throughout the club’s long history but the only venue they have been in lately is the courtroom. Surly one of the strangest public feuds this year can be found in the ongoing court case between Manchester United and popular managerial simulator video game Football Manager. The Manchester side who play in the English Premier League are taken legal action against the game’s publisher Sega Publishing and developer Sports Interactive (SI) at the High Court in London.
This has all come about as Manchester United are suing the people behind Football Manager for allegedly infringing on the club’s trademark. United believe both Sega Publishing and Sports Interactive take the infringement further by not using the official Manchester United crest in the game instead opting to use a plainer red and white striped logo as the club crest. Manchester United believe that because their name is being used in the game their official crest should be too to combat any licensing issues.
Then on the flip side Sega Publishing and Sports Interactive claim that using the name Manchester United is simply a legitimate reference to the football team. Also, that the game has been using the name in game since way back in 1992 when it the game was known as Championship Manager without a single complaint. They also accuse Manchester United of preventing legitimate competition in the field of football video games.
At a recent preliminary meeting the barrister of Manchester United Simon Malynicz QC spoke about how the name Manchester United is very recognisable and valuable around the world and that the licensing from the club is so valuable because the brand is so universally known. He also said that a consumer expects to see the club crest next to the name Manchester United not a cheap imitation and that not doing so is outright wrongful use. He went on to say that even through its somewhat a silly and trivial argument it’s still a valid argument all the same.
I hope your all still with me so far and nobody is face down asleep on their keyboard.
Manchester United also want to make changes to their original claim against Sega Publishing and Sports Interactive. They want to include allegations that both Sega and SI actively encourage patches and mods into their own content supplied by third parties. For those unaware of basic gaming lingo, a patch or a mod is a file that can be downloaded on to a game with replica trademarks that a consumer can then put into their games.
Roger Wyand QC is the name of the man representing the defendants Sega Publishing and Sports Interactive. In the written defence of Sega and SI they make the point that Manchester United have accepted their use in the Football Manager games and can’t now start to complain about that. About the issue of the official crest not being used in the game the defence said that its simply chosen at random. If the defence is to be believed the crest is one of 14 generic template options randomly chosen by the Football Manager game engine when a new game is started. Meaning that no one person is to blame, and they do this because the use of Manchester United’s official crest is not licensed by United.
Sega Publishing and Sports Interactive also claim that not allowing them to use Manchester United is unreasonable and is denying them the right to freedom of expression if they can’t refer to a team by their actual name in their game.
They also say that Manchester United actively enjoy the game and are once again baffled they are now complaining. The defence said that they have sent copies of the game to the club for them to play over the past few years. They said that they have received nothing but positive feedback by the club via press comments and tweets.
Its also been stated by scouts and data analysis who work for Manchester United in the past that they use the game to aid themselves in their roles. In the past they have even contacted Sports Interactive to gain access to the large and in-depth database that Football Manager is known for to help with scouting and research.
Unfortunately, we have no conclusion to this case at the time of writing. Mr Justice Morgan has reserved his judgement on Manchester United’s amendment to their original claim to a later date when he reviews all relevant documentation.
In summary Manchester United are suing the makers of Football Manager who they openly use as a tool for their scouting and research. This is because Football Manager used their name but not their official crest in the game therefore stopping United from getting any extra licensing money because of that. They then added an amendment to their claim that the makers of football manager encourage players to use mods and patches by third parties allegedly. The Football Manager makers are countering by saying that they have been included in their games this since 1992 with consent from the club. Also, the use of the unofficial crest is simply just a randomly used template that the game randomly selects when a new game is started. They also claim that Manchester United publicly praised the game and have used it in the past for scouting and research.
It was just a unique case with plenty of moving parts to look at without any of the usual legal terminology that most people including myself without a law degree can’t get their head around.
The biggest question by the public seems to be why now if Manchester United have been in the game since 1992. Some have speculated due to the timing and lack of games it could be a way to bring in significant funds to the club but that’s purely speculation on the part of many Twitter users.
It could be most likely settled out of court with a deal being worked out between both parties. While it won’t be as global as when OJ Simpson, Ted Bundy or Michael Jackson stepped into a court room its still a legal battle to keep an eye on over time.
At least its not possible for United to finish 6th in court thankfully. Sorry to any law heads offended by the butchering of the serious nature of their profession.