A few weeks ago news broke that Arsenal were taking legal action against an independently-owned hat shop in Seville in order to ‘protect their global brand’. A day earlier I received an email from the head of retail at Tottenham Hotspur PLC alleging unauthorised use of the club’s logo on my website.
Like Arsenal Tottenham were also trying to protect their global brand… from perceived antisemitism. (A full explanation of why I’m happy to use the word ‘yid’ can be found here.)
The offending image was a hand drawn version of the crest done by my younger sister.
Below is my email correspondence with the club verbatim, complete with misplaced apostrophes and erroneous capitalisation.
Subject: Use of Tottenham Hotspur Club Logo's
To Whomever it may concern
I am writing to you on behalf of Tottenham Hotspur PLC (the “Club”) with regards to the Tottenham Hotspur logo’s you are using on your website.
The Club logo’s are trademarked and are owned by the Club. They are also protected under copyright, again owned by the Club.
For anyone to be able to use our Logo’s you need to have permission from the Club to use them. This permission has not been given to you and I would therefore ask you to remove these items immediately from your website.
If you have any further questions about this please contact me directly.
Head of Retail
Tottenham Hotspur Football Club
Despite the nature of your email there’s a part of me that’s thrilled to have (semi-) personalised correspondence with the club. In the modern game the relationship between fans and football club is very much one of customer and business. As the Head of Retail you know that better than anyone.
It is also comforting to know that the email system at White Hart Lane is working. Last season I sent four emails (about being overcharged for postage, inadequacies of the e-ticketing system and to report problems caused by a reduction in policing at White Hart Lane station) without receiving a single reply. The club still owe me a pound by the way…
I assume the copyright infringement you refer to is the You’ll Win Nothing With Yids logo. It was drawn by my younger sister Kezia and I’m sure you’ll agree it is a wonderful piece of work.
Beside the text is a freehand drawing (blue ink on yellow sugar paper) of the Spurs crest, which I considered to be an artistic interpretation with significant modification from the original rather than a direct copy. If it is the view of the Tottenham Hotspur PLC lawyers that my image is too similar to the copyrighted club crest I would appreciate if you could give me an idea what kind of variation would be acceptable. For example would a different cockerel on a different ball, perhaps in silhouette, be considered acceptable?
I must say find it curious that the Head of Retail should contact me when clearly I’m not selling anything on my site. I’m an independent blogger with a relatively modest readership, although numbers are increasing. I don’t make any money out of Tottenham Hotspur. Quite the opposite in fact. I am a lilywhite member and spent more money than I could afford going to 15 games last season.
One final thing - is it possible you could send your response by post as well as email? I’d love to have something on headed Tottenham Hotspur paper for my scrapbook.
You’ll Win Nothing With Yids
Thank you for your email and I am glad I have restored your faith in the email system here at the Club.
However, I was concerned to read that your past email correspondence had gone unanswered. So I have picked up with the Customer Service team this morning to check what has happened to them. We pride ourselves on answering all emails within 48 hours and take very seriously when we hear that someone has not heard back from us. Unfortunately we have no record of your emails being received or being rejected by our firewalls when we have looked for your email address, so if you would like to send any queries you have again to me I will pass them on for you.
With regards to the use of the Logo, as Head of Retail, I am also responsible for Brand Protection here at the Club, which is when someone uses the trademarks unofficially and without the Club's permission. As well as this being on merchandise a majority of the time it also includes any use of the logo without our permission on websites, blogs and printed material and this is why I have emailed you.
When the Club logo appears on websites and blogs it can come across to visitors to that site that they have official endorsement from the Club and that includes the content of these sites also being seen to be an official Club opinion.
As you will no doubt be aware, historically the 'Y word' chant has been adopted by Spurs fans as a “call to arms” in order to own the term and thereby deflect anti-Semitic abuse. However, we are aware that while a number of both Jewish and non-Jewish Spurs fans use the Y word in what they consider to be an inoffensive manner, we recognize the use of the word is extremely complex and there are great sensitivities around its meaning.
Therefore, with those sensitivities in mind the Club cannot condone its use given that some fans find the word extremely offensive hence our concern that this is linked on the site with our logo.
In terms of what you can and can not use I can only guide you in the IP Rights we hold, but would always suggest that you look online or get legal advice if you want to use any logo or name as you would be amazed at what is actually protected under people’s IP Rights.
If you have any further questions I would be happy to help.
The emails I sent to the ticket office came from a different email address, which is probably why you’ve been unable to track them down. I sent them from [alternate email address] on 1st October 2010, 15th November 2010 and 17th January 2011. If you’re still unable to locate them I will send my complaints afresh.
I appreciate that you are unable to talk me through the finer points of trade mark law, but would you give me your opinion on my new temporary logo? In my opinion it is pretty clear that the website has no official endorsement from the club, and I have never pretended to.
I intend to fully cooperate with the club, so if there is an issue please let me know and I will make further modifications.
In regard to the word ‘yid’, I appreciate the club’s position, although my own view is that we’ve fully appropriated the word from the fascists and the antisemites, which is admirable rather than condemnable.
One final thing, would it be okay to reproduce your emails on my blog? The subject of copyright infringement and modern football is of great interest to the public especially in light of the recent news story about Arsenal suing a Spanish hat shop.
Thank you again for your email and the fact that you used a different address probably explains why we could not find your previous emails. They may have been caught in the Club’s firewalls and spam. Do you want me to pass on any of the queries you had ?
Unfortunately we would prefer you not to reproduce any of my comments on your website as we try to be accommodating and flexible, taking into account the specifics of each situation, so having the details of what we have discussed that are particular to you could be misleading to others.
However, I would be happy to give you my thoughts where I can on the new logo, but again would always recommend you check with a legal person first.
Thank you again for working with us on this matter, it is really appreciated.
At this point I replaced the You’ll Win Nothing With Yids logo with the below image:
As I said I have no intention of misleading the public into thinking my website is officially endorsed by the club. I have a new logo on my website - www.youllwinnothingwithyids.com. I have blurred out the cockerel. If it is the opinion of the club that this is still an infringement of copyright then I will happily change it, otherwise it will remain.
My complaints last season stemmed from the inadequacies of the new e-ticketing system. I assume the errors and miscommunication were teething problems that have now been sorted out, so there is little point rehashing my issues in full, but I do have one complaint that hasn't been resolved.
I was charged £1 for postage for the Manchester City game for a ticket that was loaded on to my membership card. I was in email contact with the ticket office, but I didn't recieve a reply once I asked for the pound to be refunded.
I feel it would be a little petty to request the overcharge to be refunded 13 months on, although I would happily accept a pair of complimentary tickets for the Liverpool game on Sunday if you have any spare.
Thank you for your email.
I will have to look at your website logo when I am back in the office tomorrow. I am working at the Stadium today due to the game and can not gain access to your site from the hot desk I am working at as it does not have the clearance to the website that my own PC does.
Also, thank you for sending me your queries about the new e-ticketing system from last year. I have passed them onto the Customer Services Manager here at the Club to look into for you. I am sure he will respond shortly.
I have managed to look at your website this morning and unfortunately you can still not use the logo in this way as it is still very clear it is our cockerel and ball logo, which is trade marked, and we have not given you permission to use it.
Please can you take this logo down from your site as soon as you can.
With the club’s position unchanging I decided to remove the famous cockerel and ball altogether and replaced it with:
I have removed the cockerel and the ball from my site logo.
Jonathan Waite, Customer Service Manager, has been in touch and assured me that the £1 I was overcharged will be refunded in the next 5 days. My suggestion of complimentary tickets seems to have fallen on deaf ears.
Thank you for removing the logo from the site and I am glad Jonathan has arranged the £1 to be refunded to you.
In terms of complimentary tickets, this is not something we would offer to you, as the gesture does not reflect the circumstances that have taken place between yourself and the Club.