EPO implicated in Golden Balls dispute

There must have been some mighty celebrations in the pubs of North West London tonight following the news, reported by the Telegraph ("Golden Balls dispute ends as couple win legal victory over Ballon D'Or organisers") that Gus and Inez Bodur had triumphed in a case that marked a new low for legal reportage of IP disputes.

Back in 2002 the Bodurs apparently set up a company which they felicitously named Golden Balls, for the purpose of making t-shirts and boxer shorts. They later licensed their name for use by Endemol UK Plc in a TV game show starring Jasper Carrott. However, within weeks of agreeing the deal the couple were challenged by French firm Intra Presse, organisers of the Ballon D'Or [French for 'Golden Ball'], the European Footballer of The Year Award.

The French company said that the use of the name Golden Balls was an infringement of their award and asked for all the Bodurs' rights to be transferred to them. But
"... last week after a case that cost £100,000, the European Patent Office ruled in the Bodurs' favour".
The IPKat is astonished at this. When, he wonders, did the European Patent Office have jurisdiction to hear any infringement claims, let alone those involving a company name, trade name or trade mark -- it's not clear which. Merpel's not so surprised: it was probably some sort of business method patent, she thinks ...

Mr and Mrs Bodur will be seeing their local Member of Parliament Mike Freer this Thursday, asking him to get the law changed so small businesses can afford to fight the large companies with help via Legal Aid. IPKat team member Jeremy is really excited by this, since Mike Freer is his MP too, and he is curious to discover what the good Parliamentarian knows about intellectual property. His previous claim to fame rests on his fateful decision to lose £27.4 million of Barnet Council's money by investing it in an Icelandic bank, so maybe this will be a chance for him to redeem himself.

More Golden Balls here and here
EPO implicated in Golden Balls dispute EPO implicated in Golden Balls dispute Reviewed by Jeremy on Monday, July 05, 2010 Rating: 5


  1. "Ballon d'or"?

    Seulement un "Ballon"?

    As the late great English conductor Sir Thomas Beecham would have doubtless said, "How singular!"

  2. A perfect match of subject-matter and reporting! I hope Mr Freer will resist any suggestion that Legal Aid should be provided for OHIM opposition proceedings (which is that this was, three times over, in French only: http://oami.europa.eu/search/legaldocs/la/EN_Opposition_Search.cfm?CFID=6462105&CFTOKEN=53800672): far better to take note of Ireland's decision to retain relative grounds examination reported by Class 46 yesterday (http://www.marques.org/class46/Default.asp?D_A=20100705&XID=BHA1898#1898) although what chance is there of OHIM following the Irish approach?

  3. Strangely, later in the Telegraph article, it refers to OHIM ...

  4. Its a series of CTM opposition where they did it all themselves

  5. The OHIM databases suggest opposition numbers 001446014 and 001291121 were rejected on 31 May 2010 and opposition number 001328451 was rejected on 19 May 2010. All concern Golden Balls word marks owned by Golden Balls Ltd. Could these be the 100,000 pound legal battles? There's also a couple of unopposed figurative marks on the database, also owned by Golden Balls Ltd.

    Interestingly, Golden Balls Ltd don't appear to have used professional representation in defending the oppositions or in filing their applications. Maybe they did and it just doesn't show in the databases (or it does I just can't find it), but, if they didn't, I wonder if investing a little money in good professional advice at an early stage could have resulted in a satisfactory outcome at far less expense. I guess we will never know.

  6. Ballon D'Or also translates to 'Balloon of Gold'
    There are also many other Golden Ball Awards and FIFA will be giving theirs to a player at the end of The World Cup. Why have the owners of the Ballon D'Or not tried to stop FIFA?

    We have had the registered trade mark in the UK since 2001 and Europe and various countries Worldwide since 2002 and we never heard anything from Intra Presse/SNC L'Equipe until shortly after our licensing deal with Endemol.
    They insisted we used lawyers as they refused to correspond with us directly. They said they wanted to settle on more than one occasion to our lawyers, but this never happened and the fees just went up and up.
    We have 2 young children who have had to watch their parents go through this unnecessary nightmare.
    We still don't understand why they started this.
    We are Golden Balls and they are Ballon D'Or.
    We have never had any football awards and have no intention of doing one.

  7. In answer to the previous comment our lawyers were
    Mark Engelman of Hardwicke and Gillian Baxter of James Ware Baxter Schoenfeld and they were on board from the beginning of this dispute.

  8. You can see our video which explains more about the case on youtube:

    Ballon D'Or v Golden Balls Part 1
    and Part 2

  9. Wow.. apparently Gill Baxter's firm provide "a specialised and cost effective service to our clients."

    Last time I checked, an opponent did most of the work with regard to an opposition; prepared the evidence, made the initial arguments. 100k - it's not just the balls that were golden

  10. In response to the question:

    "Why have the owners of the Ballon D'Or not tried to stop FIFA?"

    From this article (dated yesterday) fifa have an agreement to use Ballon D'Or.


  11. It's funny Ballon D'Or have been going as they said in their evidence since 1956. We asked in our evidence why they had not tried to stop FIFA's Golden Ball Award with Adidas and the other Golden Ball Awards in Sweden, Africa and other countries around the World. They tried to stop us using our name and we have nothing to do with a football award.
    Now after all these years they have decided to merge with FIFA, they did not have any agreement with them until this week. Do you think it's a coincidence??

  12. Hi Inez and Gus
    Can you email me at jjip@btinternet.com and give me your coordinates? I'd like to contact you at the end of the week, or early next week, to discuss this case -- and also to find out how you got on with Mike Freer MP (whom I share with you).
    Best wishes, Jeremy

  13. The Domesday Book for Essex [compiled in 1086AD] includes a reference in the Latin original to one "Humfridus aurei testiculi", rendered as Humphrey Goldenbollocks in the 1783 edition as reproduced in the 1983 Phillimore edition [Humphrey Goldenbollocks' Annexation]. The said Huphrey held land "annexed in the King's despite": seemingly analogous to what Ballon d'Or have attempted some 900 years later! The notes suggest it may have been a nickname for a man who had sired many chldren, and demonstrate some 900 years' prior use in the British Isles of "golden" in association with round objects to denote manly achievement, although not in the field of sport.


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