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David Beckham’s new MLS team facing first defeat in naming trademark dispute

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Manchester United and England footballing legend David Beckham, also famous for being married to former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, is facing a trademark infringement dispute with Italian professional football club Inter Milan.

UNICEF ambassador Beckham, 44, is in the process of establishing a new MLS (Major League Soccer) team franchise in Florida. The current name of the nascent club is ‘Inter Miami’, a name designed to add some ‘old world’ European glamour to the new club. However, famous Italian Serie-A club Inter Milan have lodged a trademark infringement claim with US courts over use of the word ‘Inter’. The Italian club, whose full name is Football Club Internazionale Milan, was established 110 years ago and widely recognised by the single word moniker ‘Inter’. The Milan-based club, nicknamed I Nerazzurri (‘The Black and Blues’), is claiming that the term ‘Inter’ is synonymous with them and should not be used as part of the formal name for other professional football or soccer clubs.

Unique Naming Rights

An initial hearing at the US Patent and Trademark Office (‘USPTO’) has already dismissed the first of 2 arguments made by MLS that Miami should not be forced to change its name. The MLS legal team contended that as there already other clubs that contain the word ‘Inter’ in their names, including Inter Leipzig in Germany and SC Internacional in Brazil, then Inter Milan could not have a unique right to use the name. In response, the USPTO are reported to have found that MLS’ claim that there are a number of clubs with Inter in their name “did not meet its burden to show that MLS has valid proprietary, or ownership, right in the name, Inter.” Whilst a final judgement is scheduled to be made by the end of 2020, at this stage it seems likely that Inter Miami will now have to change their name.

Beckham has spent many years planning a new MLS franchise. The new club are due to start their ‘rookie’ season in 2020, initially based at Fort Lauderdale’s 18,000 capacity Lockhart Stadium prior to a planned move 2 years later to a larger capacity, purpose-built venue at Miami Freedom Park.

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