Manchester United, one of Europe’s top football clubs, has sued Football Manager series creator Sega Publishing and Sports Interactive (SI Games) for allegedly infringing on the use of its trademarked club name “extensively throughout the game” according to the Guardian.
The football club also alleged that SI Games infringed on their trademark by not using the actual Manchester United logo, and instead using a simpler default red and white logo.
Manchester United stated that this “deprives the registered proprietor of its right to have the club crest licensed.”
Sega and SI Games have rebutted by saying that the use of Manchester United’s name is “a legitimate reference to the Manchester United football team in a football context” and added that the club name has been used in the video game franchise since 1992, when it was known as Championship Manager, according to the Guardian.
Both sides of the lawsuit exchanged statements asserting their own control over or freedom to use the club name.
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Manchester United lawyer Simon Malynicz QC stated that the club’s name is one of the most valuable brands in the world, adding that the money received from licensing is “very significant,” and that Sega’s use of the Manchester United name benefits their own properties.
“Consumers expect to see the club crest next to the name Manchester United,” Malynicz said, “and this failure to do so amounts to wrongful use.”
Malynicz asked Mr. Justice Morgan, the judge overseeing the lawsuit proceedings, to allow Manchester United to amend the claim against Sega and SI Games to include the use of patches and mods, arguing that the use of such modifications allows players to incorporate the Manchester United logo into their game without proper licensing.
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Defense lawyer Roger Wyand opposed Manchester United’s attempts to amend their claim.
“The claimant has acquiesced in the use by the defendants of the name of the Manchester United football team in the Football Manager game and cannot now complain of such use,” Sega and SI Games said in a written defence.
Sega and SI Games also added that efforts to prevent the companies from using the Manchester United name “would amount to an unreasonable restraint on the right to freedom of expression to restrain the use of the words ‘Manchester United’ to refer to a team in a computer game.”
Wyand also pointed out that SI Games and Manchester United have already established a mutually agreeable business relationship of sorts.
“Copies of the game have also been sent by SI to a number of officials and players at the [club] for a number of years and there have been a number of positive press comments and tweets about the game by them,” Wyand stated, adding “further, the claimant’s staff working in the data analytics and scouting teams have contacted SI on various occasions asking for access to the Football Manager database for scouting and research purposes.”
Justice Morgan has reserved his judgement on United’s proposal to amend its claim for a later date, the Guardian reported.
IGN has reached out to SI Games for additional comment.
Football clubs in Europe certainly do hold a vast amount of financial and political sway, much like American football clubs across the United States and other major leagues. Manchester United has in recent months come under increased pressure to address its rapidly growing debt, with the Guardian reporting the club’s debt had risen by £127.4 million to £429.1 million in the 12 months prior to March 31, 2020.
Sega’s Football Manager series has managed to establish itself as one of the top sports management games of its kind, and has only risen in popularity with the onset of shelter-in-place restrictions. Forbes recently reported that the game had reached 130,000 peak concurrent players, with a total weekly player count of 875,000.
Football Manager’s player database is also a widely lauded feature of the game — so much so that real-world player scouts often use it to discover new and rising talent. Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer himself has credited the game for helping prepare him for running the club, according to Manchester Evening News.
Check out our review of Football Manager 2020, which IGN dubbed “still addictively enormous, but more open to newcomers than ever.”
Joseph Knoop is a writer/producer/ignorant American for IGN.