Superstar footballer Lionel Messi has won a seven-year legal battle to register his surname as a trademark, overturning a previous decision in favour of long-established Spanish bicycle brand, Massi.
The Massi brand – not to be confused with Masi, originally founded in Italy and now based in the United States – was launched in Spain in the 1970s.
Owners Casa Masferrer have been active in bicycle production since 1934, and are based in the city of Granollers, near Barcelona.
In 2011, when Messi – who had joined FC Barcelona’s youth ranks in 2001 – sought to register his name as a trademark with the European Union Office for Intellectual Property (EUIPO), Massi lodged an objection.
The Argentine international was named last week by France Football Magazine as the world’s richest player with career earnings of £28 million, putting him ahead of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, the ongoing legal battle has prevented him from exploiting his own surname until now, with Massi arguing that his branding was too similar to its own as he sought to trademark it for sports goods and apparel.
Initially, the EUIPO agreed with Massi, saying that the branding, “consisting of the terms 'Massi' and 'Messi', are almost identical visually and phonetically."
It added that not everyone would be aware of the distinction between the two.
However, in a judgment published last Thursday, the General Court of the European Union ruled that Messi’s fame is such that there could be no confusion between the two in the mind of the average consumer.
The court said: "The football player's fame counteracts the visual and phonetic similarities" with Massi.
"Mr Messi is, in fact, a well-known public figure who can be seen on television and who is regularly discussed on television or on the radio," it added.
Aged 30, Messi yesterday evening won the Spanish league title for the ninth time with FC Barcelona, who he has also helped to four Champions League victory.
The all-time leading goal-scorer for both his club and country, he also won an Olympic gold medal with Argentina at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 when aged 21.
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