Use of Football Players' names and images in computer games

When an individual buys a computer game specifically to do with football they will want that game to be as realistic as possible. Accordingly the following two elements are factors which can make a game seen more realistic:

  •       The use of the players’ names
  •       The use of the players’ images

The use of the players’ names

How can a player protect the use of their name?

Some football players have protected their name as a trademark ensuring that the use of it by anyone other than a designated source will be infringing that mark. However, it is not a guarantee that all footballers will be able to register their name as a trademark. In order to be able to register a trademark it must be shown that the mark is distinctive.

Not every footballers name will however, be considered distinctive enough to attract trademark protection.

If a footballer has his name protected as a trademark can he prevent his name being used in a football computer game without his permission?

In order to show trademark infringement the player will have to show the following:

  •       That the mark was used in the course of trade or business
  •       That the use falls within one of the infringing acts specified by the Trade Marks Act 1994

What are the infringing acts specified by the Trade Marks Act?

The infringing acts which are specified by the Trade Marks Act are as follows:

  •       The use of an identical mark on identical goods and services
  •       The use of identical or similar marks for identical or similar goods and services
  •       The conflict with a mark of repute

Would the use of a player’s name infringe a trademark in this manner?

When a football player registers his name as a trademark in the most part this will be able to stop the use of the name on the kind of product that would be endorsed by the player. If his name appears on other similar goods then this would clearly weaken the strength of the mark.

The use of a player’s name in a computer game capacity falling within one of the above is something which would be likely to attract trademark infringement. This is often why we see many computer games unable to use the official names of football players.

How is it that some computer games do not have the official names and some do?

The world governing body of football – FIFA – is one party which occupies a dominant stake in the computerised football game market as they produce along with a gaming company the official FIFA game.

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For more information on:

  • Why is this the case?
  • The use of the players’ images
  • How can a football player protect the use of their image?
  • What needs to be proven for the tort of passing off?
  • Would this apply to the use of a footballer’s image in a computer game?
  • Can this extend to the use of an image within the game?