Rangers win legal fight against street trader over club’s logo

The famous Rangers logo. Picture: Getty Images
The famous Rangers logo. Picture: Getty Images
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Rangers have won a long-running legal battle against a street trader who wanted to stop them trademarking their famous “RFC” logo.

The club applied to register the letters as an official trademark for selling merchandise and to stop others cashing in on them.

However, they faced opposition from Russell Campbell, a street vendor in Glasgow who sells unofficial Rangers merchandise.

He claimed the letters “RFC” were not exclusive to the Glasgow club as they had been used by rugby football clubs for many years and said they should not be allowed a monopoly on them.

Mr Campbell also claimed he could face criminal prosecution if the club were allowed to trademark the initials.

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), which rules on trademark disputes, found in favour of the Ibrox club last year and ordered Mr Campbell to pay Rangers £800 towards their legal costs in the case.

READ MORE: Rangers win legal battle over club logo

However, he challenged that decision and was granted an appeal hearing by the IPO but the lawyer overseeing the appeal, Daniel Alexander QC, has now thrown out the case.

He said: “It is important to note that the grounds of objection to the mark were not that the mark was devoid of distinctive character because of its reference to Rangers Football Club.

“The ground of objection was that “RFC” would be used or taken to be used to refer to something else completely namely a rugby football club.

“It is worth observing that there is no suggestion that the opponent himself intends to use the initials “RFC” on or in relation to the goods in question for the purpose of denoting or referring to a rugby football club: the opponent’s business involves use of those initials to refer to Rangers Football Club.

“The evidence taken as a whole do not suggest that there has been any use of “RFC” on its own to denote a rugby football club.

“Key to the point is the fact that the uses identified of “RFC” for a rugby football club were limited to situations in which the acronym was used with another term.

READ MORE: More on the £100k battle

“In my view, on the specific facts of the case as found by the hearing officer, he reached a reasonable conclusion which was in line with the case law. For those reasons I do not consider that this ground of appeal is made out.”

He added: “The opponent is concerned that registration of the marks will place a commercial weapon in the hands of the applicant which would criminalise the sale of unauthorised merchandise in certain circumstances.

“That may be a consequence of registration but it is not a ground of objection to registration as such.”

Mr Campbell first challenged the trademark application in 2013 but his case was thrown out. He then successfully appealed for the case to be looked at again.

The IPO’s decision means Rangers may be able to take action against any traders selling goods with the “RFC” logo on them without permission.

In an earlier submission to the IPO, Mr Campbell said: “The letters ‘RFC’ are used as an abbreviation to describe the services of rugby/football clubs.

“The letters have been used as an abbreviation since the late 19th century including with Langholm RFC which was founded in 1871.

“The letters are used as an abbreviation for rugby/football clubs by hundreds of clubs both professional and amateur to indicate that they are a rugby football club including without limitation Aberdeen RFC.”

However Rangers said they had been selling items bearing the letters including clothing, jewellery and footwear for many years and that they had no connection to rugby.

In 2016, the club regained the legal ownership of other trademarks from Sports Direct.

Logos including the club name and Ready insignia had been held by Mike Ashley’s firm as security against a £5 million emergency loan granted to the club.