June 9, 2006

World Cup Sponsorship

Posted in marketing, passing off, sponsorship, trade practices at 4:28 am by thelawthoughts

This photo, posted by The Trademark Blog, gives rise to an interesting question about sponsorship rights. Air Emirates are the official WC sponsor of FIFA, as I understand, and are grumpy at Lufthansa painting soccer balls on their nosecones.

The question I have is whether this creates any association in the minds of consumers about an association between Lufthansa and FIFA. I don't think it does. They aren't using the WC insignia on their planes, nor in their advertising, which in Australia is often protected by law (see Part 5A of the Commonwealth Games Arrangement Act 2001 (Vic) or the Olympic Insignia Protection Act 1987 (Cth) ). They are not really attempting to associate themselves with FIFA or any other directing agency involved in the World Cup. They are merely, well, cashing in on World Cup Fever.

There is no cause of action I can think of to be brought by a sponsor against Lufthansa. It is not passing off their product as that of FIFA's or Air Emirates'. The only action that might be possible is an action in misleading and deceptive conduct under s52 of the Trade Practices Act, or for false or misleading representations under s53. 

Whether either of these actions would get up is very difficult to say. The best thing about s52 is its broad scope. However, if you are trying to avoid a misleading and deceptive conduct action, you probably want to avoid saying things like this:

"People might think we are a sponsor," said Amelie Lorenz, a spokeswoman for Lufthansa, "but that's good for us."

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