For tennis fans, the sight of Roger Federer taking to the grass courts of Wimbledon decked out in gear bearing his personalised "RF" monogram logo is as much a part of the tournament as strawberries and cream. The logo first appeared in 2006 and adorned the ace's jackets, shirts and hats at several tournaments. However, since 2018, it has been absent from Mr. Federer's kit as a result of a trade mark conflict. This is set to change next year as the star has regained control of the rights in the mark.
Mr. Federer announced via social media earlier this month that he will be launching a new range of clothing using the logo in collaboration with Uniqlo. The manufacturer is key; previously, Federer had been sponsored by Nike and it was the US giant that was responsible for registering the logo as a trade mark in various territories, including the UK and EU.
This led to something of an impasse in 2018, when Federer signed a new sponsorship contract with Uniqlo. Since he did not own the rights to the logo, the ace was prevented from using it for commercial gain. At the same time, Nike also found themselves unable to profit: under EU law, trade marks may not confuse or mislead consumers, and their continued sale of products bearing the logo may have led buyers to assume that Mr. Federer was still representing the company, when that was in fact not the case. Nike also had to contend with various trade marks for ROGER FEDERER that were owned by Federer himself, and the possible confusion that may have caused in the market.
Now, though, the matter looks to have been resolved as ownership of the "RF" marks has been transferred to Tenro AG, a Swiss asset management company established by Mr. Federer. He is now free to resurrect the monogram logo and Uniqlo may begin selling clothing and accessories bearing the mark.
Sports stars diversifying their public image in the form of a personal logo is common practice: Michael Jordan's "Jumpman" logo and Tom Brady's "TB12" brand are other examples of athletes branching out from their sport to sell merchandise under a trade mark. It can be a useful strategy as trade mark offices are sometimes hesitant to grant trade mark protection for personal names, particularly where that name is not unusual. For Roger Federer, this development should ensure his brand returns to the public consciousness, even if he did not have the chance to show it off at Wimbledon this year.
When the Swiss makes his much-anticipated return to the courts in 2021, he will have a familiar look.