German courts impose ban on unauthorised World Cup advertising
In recent weeks, the media has carried a number of reports, some of which have been very contradictory, about the supposed opportunity to use the 2006 FIFA World Cup as an advertising platform without a licence. However, several German courts have once again confirmed that only FIFA's official sponsors and licensees are allowed to use the 2006 FIFA World Cup as a commercial advertising tool.
The Stuttgart district court has passed a legally binding decision that prohibits a company from producing and selling a product related to the 2006 FIFA World Cup (using terms such as 'Fussball 2006') as it does not have the necessary licence to do so. The court also made it explicitly clear that any unlicensed trade with a World Cup product even if does not infringe on official trademarks is to be classed as 'ambush marketing', which is prohibited by the law on unfair competition. FIFA has also been successful in recent days in various court cases regarding the protection of its marks.
For example, the Leipzig district court has granted FIFA an injunction against the unauthorised use of the 'WM 2006' mark. The court ruled that the company in question was not allowed to use the 'WM 2006' mark on a range of products, and that if it did, it would be liable to a fine of up to EUR 250,000. The district courts of Hamburg and Nuremberg also passed the same decisions on Monday, and the companies in question have also been banned from using the 'WM 2006' mark on their products
On 27 April 2006, the German federal supreme court confirmed a decision passed by the German patent and trademark office, ruling that the 'WM 2006' mark was only partially protected in Germany. However, the 'WM 2006' is protected across Europe as it is a community trademark. This has now been confirmed by the most recent court decisions, because FIFA's licensing programme continues to be legally protected on this basis as well as by competition law. The 'WM 2006' mark is also protected as a 'special commercial designation'.