After UEFA’s Starball logo, also the EURO Trophy has been denied copyright registration

Not long ago this blog reported on the refusal - by both the US Copyright Office and the US Copyright Office Review Board - to register the UEFA Starball logo. This work was denied registration in both instances because it is not sufficiently original to sustain a claim for copyright.
Despite UEFA losing 0 – 2 to the Copyright Office, it did not give up. Living by the motto 'Get rich registered or die trying', it gathered strength and raised a final punch against the almighty powerful Office and attempted to obtain (yet another) registration of … nothing less than the actual UEFA Euro Trophy.
UEFA submitted that the Euro Trophy – as a silver-pedestaled vase with handles, long neck, and lip – would be deserving of copyright protection:

However, the Euro Trophy was initially denied registration in 2017. UEFA subsequently appealed the decision and added that the Euro Trophy is not a standard trophy vase due to its twisted handles. The Board disagreed on this point by reasoning that, regardless of the specific history of trophy vases, the overall shape of the trophy shares common design features with amphora, a standard shape in Greek and Etruscan pottery.
UEFA further added that registration would be supported by a number of decisions issued by the Office itself in relation to trophy registration’. However, the Board considered that a comparison of the present object with previous decisions is not relevant. Each claim is in fact examined on its own merits.
The Review Board’s assessment
The Review Board went on to consider whether the Euro Trophy might be eligible for registration by assessing the level of originality of the work.
Similar to the previous cases reported on this blog (see here and here), the Office reiterated the legal framework pursuant to Section 102a of the US Copyright Act (USC). That section sets out that a work may be registered if it qualifies as an original work of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression. Following the US Supreme Court judgment in Feist Publications Inc v Rural Telephone Services (499 US 340 (1991)), the term “original” entails two components: independent creation and sufficient creativity. This means that a work must have been independently created by the author and must possess sufficient creativity.
The Review Board then considered Sections 202.1(a) and 202.10(a) of the US Copyright Office Regulations which provide that:
[The US Copyright Office will prohibit registration of] words and short phrases such as names, titles, slogans; familiar symbols or designs […] To be acceptable as a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work, the work must embody some creative authorship in its delineation or form.
In a final step, the Board moved on to re-reiterate Section 906.2 of the Compendium of US Copyright Office Practices:
Copyright law does not protect mere variations on a familiar symbol or design, either in two or three-dimensional form.
In light of the above, the Board concluded that the remaining contributions modifying the Euro Trophy, that is the curve of the body, the thickness of the foot, the allegedly “unusual upper wide tray type opening”, do not even possess a de minimis amount of creativity to satisfy the test originality criteria set out in Feist. Nor are the etchings (the process of using strong acid or mordant to cut into the unprotected parts of a metal surface) and curvilinear lines on the foot, body, and neck sufficient to be regarded as eligible for protection.

According to the Board, when the etchings are combined with the overall shape, these elements do not impart the required creativity for copyright protection. Therefore, the Euro Trophy as a whole does not rise to the level of creativity required under US copyright law.

In conclusion: it may very well be correct to assert (as one reader also reminded me) that instances like this one and applications to register logos as copyright works are all attempts by companies and individuals to expand protection from trade mark law into the sphere of copyright law. For now, it is sufficient to pass away the trophy to the real winner in this match: the US Copyright Office Review Board.
After UEFA’s Starball logo, also the EURO Trophy has been denied copyright registration After UEFA’s Starball logo, also the EURO Trophy has been denied copyright registration Reviewed by Nedim Malovic on Tuesday, September 25, 2018 Rating: 5

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