You say Arsenal, I say Arsenale – let’s call the whole thing a trademark infringement

Every day for at least a week I’ve read at least one story about Arsenal taking the owner of a hat shop in Seville to court. It started on Monday with The Times taking the piss on their, ha ha, ‘amusing’ column on the back of the football section. It’s carried on all week with various newspapers and websites, and most of it is a complete pile of crap.

In case anyone has missed it, Arsenal have won a ‘court battle’ against Alicia Simon, whose Seville hat shop is called ‘Arsenale’. She has been asked to change the shop’s name after the Spanish Patent & Trademark Office ruled in Arsenal’s favour. Many in the media seem to think this is wrong, and Arsenal have been villified.

Alicia Simon: appealing

Not Appealing

Obviously for the last couple of years making fun of Arsenal has become a favourite pastime of all non-Gooners, especially recently with Arsene’s pronouncements about players not leaving and big clubs, followed by players leaving, 8-2 losses and panic buying like a family of chavs at the Burberry closing down sale.

The club is seen as such fair game for this that even when this story has been reported on Arsenal-related websites, most of the comments are from Gooners saying, ‘What the hell is the club bothering with that for? Haven’t we got much bigger problems on the pitch?’

Sure we’ve got bigger problems, but that doesn’t mean the lawyers and commercial department should relax, does it? And let’s look at a few facts of the case.

Hat shop owner Alicia Simon is an attractive and shapely blonde lady, and that always helps get the press on her side. I’m not sure she’d get the same sympathy if she was older, fatter and uglier. And of course she is perceived as the underdog against the horrible nasty big corporation. I’ve seen Senorita Simon described as ‘poor’, ‘stunned’ and ‘bewildered’. I’ve seen Arsenal described as ‘ridiculous’ and ‘bullying’. I’ve seen claims that Arsenal are trying to force the shop to close down!

“Imagine my surprise when I received it,” La Simon is quoted as saying, referring to some unspecified legal document. Now I’m sure she’s a lovely lady but I feel she may be playing the media a little here, and they’re not exactly fighting it. It’s difficult to know why Alicia Simon would be in the least bit confused, stunned or bewildered by any of this now, as it has been going on for four years. She applied to register the name of the shop before it opened in 2007; Arsenal objected, but she carried on anyway. So Arsenal started the long and tortuous legal path to get someone in a foreign country to play by the rules. Finally they win the case and are immediately castigated as the bad guys.

Of course if it could be guaranteed that Alicia Simon was only going to sell a few hats from one shop in Seville, then even if there is a case for technical copyright or trademark infringement you can see why Arsenal would be criticised for going after the lady. But it appears she was trying to register her Arsenale trademark for a whole range of goods to apply in the whole of Spain. If the club allowed this, not only is it potentially damaging to Arsenal in Spain, but it sets a precedent for other countries, particularly in the EU. Once there is an acceptance of ‘Arsenale’, how does the club know that Alicia Simon or anyone else won’t start objecting to ‘Arsenal’ on the basis that ‘Arsenale’ customers will get confused and the ‘Arsenale’ business will be harmed? Give people an inch and they will take a mile. So it’s not over-the-top bullying trademark protection, just very standard business practice. Which is why a Spanish authority has ruled in favour of a foreign company over one of their own citizens.

Senorita Simon has said she will be appealing the decision and vowed to “fight this to the end”. No doubt the publicity will sell a few more hats, and give some sections of the media more ammo for their Arsenal-baiting. It’s a cheap shot, and they don’t need to bother too much with facts, which is what a lot of them like. Never let the facts get in the way of a story, eh?


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