French Court ruling sets dangerous precedent for sports betting

Unibet and William Hill have been fined by the Civil Court of First Instance in France for using the trademarked word ‘Juventus’ on their websites in reference to bets offered on a recent match between the Italian team and Real Madrid.

The ruling stated that by using the word Juventus in slogans or comments aimed at promoting their online betting activity, the companies were guilty of “counterfeiting”.
The court cited Unibet’s website as an example.

The site carried a French slogan which translates as: “Two giants of European football meet Tuesday night at 8.45pm. Real Madrid with its nine UEFA champions league victories will receive Juventus from Turin. This will be a special game for French player Zinedine Zidan who played in the Italian colours before joining the Spanish team.”

The French court ruled that if the online gaming companies are allowed to use the brand names of sports teams in relation to games for which they are offering bets, this authorization must be strictly limited to being used only when necessary for placing a bet.

Unibet said in its defense that “mentioning the name Juventus only served to identify a game for which it proposed betting,” and that it had not been used “in its capacity as brand”. William Hill also stated that the Juventus brand was used “in such conditions that the readers cannot think that there is a commercial connection between it and the plaintiff, thus, there is no risk of confusion.”

The French court however disagreed. “This is not the case when they use the brand Juventus in a commercial purpose to promote their activity by exploiting the fame of the team, as was the case in the slogans in question,” it said. Both Unibet and William Hill were ordered to pay a token 1 euro fine to Juventus, as well as 10,000 euros each in legal fees.

The ruling sets a dangerous precedent for online betting companies and its first use could well be by the French Tennis Federation to further block attempts to offer bets on the upcoming Roland Garros French Open.