In an order issued on 7 November, the General Court of the European Union (GC of the EU) settled the dispute over the "Diego Maradona" trade mark, upholding the decision of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) not to transfer the trade mark to Sattvica, an Argentinian company linked to the late footballer's former lawyer.
It all started in July 2001, when the popular footballer Diego Maradona applied to the EUIPO to register the EU trade mark "Diego Maradona", which covered a wide range of goods, from footwear and clothing to toiletries, and a variety of services, from catering and hospitality to hairdressing salons. The trade mark was registered in 2003.
The situation changed after Maradona's death in November 2020. In January 2021, Sattvica filed an application with the EUIPO to have the trade mark transferred to itself (as it previously belonged to Mr Maradona and would therefore be passed on to his successors) on the basis of an agreement that the company had passed in 2015 with the footballer, granting it commercial exploitation rights and general right to use the trade mark. The EUIPO initially accepted the assignment and registered the transfer in the trade mark database, but later revoked it at the request of Maradona's heirs. In March 2022, EUIPO confirmed that its initial decision to register the transfer was an error as Sattvica had not provided sufficient documentation to properly support the assignment of the trade mark in its favour.
Sattvica appealed to the General Court, but the GC rejected the request on the grounds that the documents submitted by Sattvica did not formally justify the assignment of the trade mark in the context of a contract signed between the company and Maradona. Furthermore, the Court noted that since Maradona had died before the application for registration of the assignment was filed, Sattvica had no opportunity to correct the irregularities or submit other relevant documents.
It should be borne in mind that the GC's judgment is not final, as it may be appealed to the European Union Court of Justice. This appeal, which is limited to points of law, must be lodged within two months and ten days of notification of the decision. Therefore, Sattvica can still appeal the court's decision.
The trade mark "Diego Maradona" is not only the epicenter of a legal dispute over intellectual property rights, but also a symbol of the complex legacy left behind by the legendary Argentine footballer. Indeed, in the aftermath of his death, several legal disputes have arisen on different fronts: nurses are being sued for alleged negligence in their care of Maradona, while five of his eight children are involved in a dispute over a large inheritance estimated at between 70 and 95 million euros.