MLS, Inter Miami lose key argument in Inter Milan lawsuit

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The myriad twists and turns on David Beckham’s path to bring a Major League Soccer team to Miami have gone in a new direction.

Beckham and his partners named their club Inter Miami CF, and a certain Serie A giant was not impressed.

Inter Milan is suing MLS for trademark infringement, claiming that the term “Inter” is synonymous with its club and no one else.

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That logic is pretty sound, and Monday was a good day for that lawsuit.

Inter Miami lost a key battle in the fight to keep its name, according to Law.com, which says the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) dismissed one of the MLS club’s two arguments. Law.com says that MLS will appeal the decision, and likely lose.

Article writer David Winker says that Inter Milan had to “overcome a heavy burden” to prevail in this argument against “likely confusion”, and the USPTO found that the Italian club did just that. From Law.com:

The USPTO found that MLS’ claim that there are a number of clubs around the world that use Inter in their name — SC Internacional of Porto Alegre, Brazil, Inter Nashville FC, Inter Atlanta FC, FC Inter Turku (Finland), NK Inter Zapresic (Croatia), Inter Leipzig (Germany) and Inter de Grand-Goave (Haiti)— did not meet its burden to show that MLS has valid proprietary, or ownership, right in the name, Inter.

That’s a tough argument, especially including a three-year-old NPSL side (Inter Nashville) and a youth club (Inter Atlanta FC).

The other argument is that Inter is “merely descriptive.” The article claims that adjectives like “spicy” mustard and “refreshing” iced tea cannot be trademarked, and Inter says this is nothing like that.

In effect, it will come down to Inter Milan convincing the USPTO that consumers think of Inter Milan when they hear the term Inter.

We’re not lawyers, so we’ll leave that to them, but it would not be a surprise to see MLS lose the suit and Inter Miami change its name. And Winker says the decision could come around the end of 2020.

Can you imagine? With all the fan fare, the jersey launch, and the tickets sales, a club would have to change its name within a season of play?

Don’t get me wrong: I think the name Inter Miami is a rough choice. But if both clubs met in the Club World Cup, would anyone confuse the two? To be sure, all references to Inter would be laid upon the Italian side and that’s the point of the lawsuit, but…

Wow.