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Soccer clubs in international trademark dispute

California soccer fans may be surprised to learn that intellectual property issues can even impact their favorite teams. Presently, two soccer clubs are involved in an international dispute over the names of their clubs. Inter Milan, based in an Italian city, and Inter Miami, based in a Florida city, are locked into an ongoing trademark dispute over the use of Inter. Miami, a team owned by former soccer star David Beckham, recently lost an initial decision regarding the trademark dispute.

Some trademark attorneys believe that Inter Miami, a Major League Soccer team, may be compelled to change its name after the initial trademark victory for Inter Milan. Inter Milan had submitted a trademark application in 2014 to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Milan had registered "Inter" as an exclusive brand in the United States for sports teams, preventing other teams from registering trademarks with the same name or using Inter in their marketing. However, in 2018, Miami's Major League Soccer Team presented its name, Inter Miami, short for Club Internacional de Fútbol Miami. Miami later applied for a trademark on the name, and the application was suspended after Inter Milan objected.

Major League Soccer objected to Inter Milan's trademark application in 2019, arguing that "Inter" is a commonly used, descriptive term rather than a unique brand. It also argued that if Milan is given the trademark, existing teams using "Inter" will face a likelihood of confusion. However, the USPTO dismissed the objection.

While Inter Miami has already received a logo, branding and uniforms, some say that it could be forced to change its name if Inter Milan escalates the battle. Companies who are facing intellectual property disputes of their own should take action to protect their rights. Wang IP Law Group, P.C., can work with companies to register their intellectual property and defend themselves against infringement.

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