By Sir Hardly Anyone
Anyone who knows their Liverpool history, will know that not only was it a city, like Bristol, centrally involved in the slave trade, but that it has a couple of football clubs close to each other. And it seems one of those clubs of that ilk has a thing about its name. A story which I am going to try and tell.
Our story begins with a club called Everton, which played in a ground owned by the one time Lord Mayor of Liverpool, John Houlding.
The ex-Mayor wanted to raise the rent on the ground (rather as the landlord of the Invicta Stadium in Plumstead did for Woolwich Arsenal in 1892 – the same year as the Everton dispute arose in fact) And so when Everton wouldn’t pay up, the club moved down the road to Goodison. In fact just as Woolwich Arsenal moved across the road to the Manor Ground. (It was obviously a thing for landlords to do at the time – up the rent and say “pay or go.”)
Left with an empty stadium Mr Houlding decided to set up a new club – which he called Liverpool. All very similar to the landlord and his gang at Arsenal forming Royal Ordnance Factories FC and ending up playing in the Arsenal’s previous home – the Invicta Stadium, opposite the Manor Ground.
Interestingly the rent increase proposed for Everton (a rise of 250%) was again similar to that proposed for Arsenal, although Arsenal, being in London, were paying a much higher rent anyway, and the new Invicta rent proposed for Arsenal would have been far and away the highest paid by any club anywhere.
But in the case of Liverpool, there was then an extra twist because the owner of the Anfield ground tried to retain not only the stadium (which of course he could do as he was the owner) but also the name “Everton”. He even went so far as to register the name “Everton Football Club and Athletic Grounds Company, Limited” with Companies House – the UK’s central registration point for all limited companies.
But irrespective of what the company was called the Football League ruled that the name Everton belonged to the original club, and that the naming of the ground did not affect the naming of the club. So the owner of the now empty Anfield ground set about founding Liverpool Football Club.
Now you might think that Liverpool FC was by the 21st century famous enough already, what with it holding the city’s name, and with it having the second most number of wins of the top division in its many guises. So do they really need to protect their name? I guess so, and maybe the fact that they have won the Premier League fewer times than Blackburn Rovers or Leicester City makes them feel a bit inferior.
Of course I can’t read minds so I don’t know the thinking, but what is clear is that Liverpool FC has been trying to register the word “Liverpool” as a trademark. That would have allowed them to write their club name as Liverpool®. Possibly they might then have insisted that all the signs in the city and on the motorways etc would have had to direct people to Liverpool® as well.
But there is a central office of government known as the Intellectual Property Office which handles such matters and they said “no”, so the club is now stuck with Liverpool™. The TM in little letters means that the owners think they have a trade mark, but the state doesn’t agree so it isn’t real.
The idea of course is a financial one – if the word “Liverpool” were to be registered as a trade mark it would stop anyone else using the word without paying money by way of a licence fee to Liverpool FC. Thus in theory that could have meant that local residents would have had to pay extra in tax so that their council could continue to call itself “Liverpool”.
Liverpool™ said that ,“We will, however, continue to aggressively pursue those large-scale operations which seek to illegally exploit our intellectual property and would urge the relevant authorities to take decisive action against such criminal activity wherever it exists.” Thus incidentally showing that not only are they not au fait with the law on trademarks, their grammar isn’t up to much either. Split infinitives indeed! Did their PR department not do English at skool?
Of course we shall acknowledge their right to protect themselves by referring to the club at all times from now on as Liverpool ™ as that seems only fair. Indeed we did edge towards such thinking some time ago when we used to list them in the league table as Liverpool! – a reflection of the way in which media commentators generally wrote and spoke about them. Actually maybe it was Liverpool! that made them want to become Liverpool™.
That exclamation got lost somewhere a few years ago, but this is a good reminder, and Liverpool™ seems to sum up the club and its view of itself rather well.
And I must seriously add a note about Spirit of Shakly football supporters union, which opposed the move towards the trade mark registration. Nice to see.
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