Media Release

Federation Internationale de Football Association

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German federal supreme court rejects protection of German 'Fussball WM 2006' mark – decision on 'WM 2006' postponed – protection uph

The German federal supreme court today revoked protection of the "Fussball WM 2006" mark. However, no judgment was passed on protectability of the "WM 2006" mark. The German federal patent court had initially ruled that "WM 2006" was protectable for a wide range of products and services for FIFA, including the contentious confectionery category.

The German federal supreme court, however, chose not to pass any definitive decision and referred the matter back to the federal patent court, where Ferrero's claim will finally be decided as to whether or not trademark protection will be granted in the confectionery category as well as other goods and services categories that have already been confirmed. The protection granted in August 2005 will remain in force until the matter has been reconsidered by the German federal patent court.

Regardless of today's decision, the "WM 2006" mark will continue to be registered as a "community trademark" in Europe for FIFA and will consequently be protected in Germany. The European Office for Harmonisation in Alicante rejected Ferrero's request for a cancellation of this mark in autumn 2005. "WM 2006" is also protected as a "special commercial designation" in Germany and, as a result, German courts have on numerous occasions already forbidden third parties from using the term "WM 2006". Similarly, with regard to the FIFA World Cup™, many courts have ruled that certain business activities are in violation of the law on unfair competition if they give the impression of an unauthorised connection with the 2006 FIFA World Cup™.

A few days ago, a number of German courts prohibited the use of "WM 2006" on T-shirts and shower gel, completely independently of the German mark to which this German federal supreme court decision refers. In spite of the decision reached by the German federal supreme court, trademark law offers sufficient protection for sports sponsorship, which is so vital to the financing of any major sports event, including the 2006 FIFA World Cup™.

FIFA General Secretary Urs Linsi was unequivocal on this matter: "Safeguarding the exclusive rights of our partners is an essential requirement for this, the world's largest privately financed sports event, which generates costs of more than 600 million euros for FIFA alone. Companies that seek to profit from the FIFA World Cup without making a contribution jeopardise the financing of the event through commercial partnerships. Protecting our trademarks is therefore of fundamental importance to developing football as a whole. Our trademarks are still protected but today's decision does not augur well for the growth of our sport or for organisers of major sports events."