Ballon d'Or owner loses trademark fight against UK's Golden Balls

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - The Ballon d'Or Awards - Theatre du Chatelet, Paris, France - November 29, 2021 General view of the trophy REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Les Editions P. Amaury, which owns the rights to football award Ballon d'Or, on Wednesday lost its trademark fight against Britain's Golden Balls after a European court backed a patent agency's decision to strip the French firm's rights to TV broadcasting and books.

The Luxembourg-based General Court, Europe's second top court, however restored Ballon d'Or's trademark rights to entertainment services, saying that the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) was wrong to revoke it.

Ballon d'Or is awarded to the best male and female footballers of the year.

Ballon d'Or's dispute with British sportswear company Golden Balls started in 2017 when the UK company asked EUIPO to cancel the former's trademark because it had not been used.

EU laws allow a third party to do so if trademarks have not been used over a five-year period. The patent agency backed Golden Balls and last year revoked Ballon d'Or's rights to some goods and services.

That prompted the French company to take the fight to the General Court in an attempt to get back its rights to the broadcasting or production of television programmes, shows or films, entertainment and the publication of books, magazines or newspapers.

The General Court agreed with the patent body.

"That company did not establish genuine use of the mark at issue in connection with those services, with the result that the General Court upholds EUIPO's decision to revoke the mark in respect of those services," the tribunal said.

Judges overruled EUIPO in one aspect.

"The organisation, under the contested mark, of the Ballon d'or award ceremony must be classified as an entertainment service," they said.

The parties can appeal on matters of law to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), Europe's top court.

The case is Case T-478/21 Les Editions P. Amaury v EUIPO - Golden Balls (BALLON D'OR).

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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