Roger Federer And Nike Battle Over Copyright Ownership Of The ‘RF’ Logo
Roger Federer is now the new face of Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo.
The professional tennis player has parted ways with Nike after nearly two decades to sign a 10-year contract with the Japanese company, allowing him to earn a cool £22.5 million (US$29.83 million) per year, triple the amount of what he had previously contracted with Nike.
Nike claims, however, that it still owns the rights to the RF logo despite Federer’s departure. Nike said that the rights to the logo have not been transferred to Federer, even though he has expressed hopesthat Nike would eventually bring this over to him at some point.
This unfortunate situation is making it difficult for the new deal with Uniqlo. Uniqlo might have to shell out a hefty fee to use the logo, but it is said that the transfer could take months to happen. Trademark attorney Jacqueline Pang of Mewburn Ellis—an intellectual property firm that deals with trademarks and patents—said that Nike is “playing a risky game.”
Pang explained that the sportswear giant has a “difficult PR path to navigate” and holding legal control over the RF logo might turn away Federer’s fanbase and customers on whom the value of the brand actually lies.
Nike is said to have a strong legal position as the company presumably owns the copyright to the RF logo and the company also owns trademark registrations of it across the globe. If Nike retains ownership of the RF logo, the brand could continue to capitalize on it, thus barring Federer and Uniqlo from using it on garments that are not produced by Nike.
Though this case seems similar to fashion brands such as Karen Millen and Elizabeth Emanuel—who sold their self-named brands and were prevented from using their names to start other businesses of their own—Federer owns trademarks for his full name, proving adequate for his brand to be synonymous with himself.
Federer hinted in an interview during Wimbledon that talks with Nike suggest that the rights for the brand could be transferred to him eventually.
However, this news could also be a strategy to place pressure on Nike to hasten the transfer of ownership rights. Federer added that the brand is something that is of great importance to him as it contains his initials and therefore belongs to him.