Following their retirement from professional football, the likes of Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville have now taken on the world of education. In 2017, the ex-Manchester United gang launched University Academy 92, a venture offering degrees in subjects like sport and business.

But, they’re already facing a legal battle about their brand, and are now seeking an injunction to protect its identity. Our Intellectual Property expert, Wayne Beynon, explains their trade mark dispute.

Shortly after the launch of the university, a former business partner of Giggs and Neville, Brendan Flood, incorporated several companies using the ‘UA92’ wording (including ‘UA92 Limited’ and ‘UA92 Manchester Limited’). He also filed for an EU and UK trademark for ‘UA92 Manchester’. The class of 92 are now alleging that this infringes their own ‘UA92’ trademark.

While many would associate the class of ’92 with Giggs, the Neville Brothers, Beckham, Scholes, Butt and co., “92” is essentially just a number. Just because these individuals were part of the famous team at the time, it doesn’t follow that they can lay claim to an exclusive right to use the number “92”. When it comes to preventing others from using the “92” mark to offer education related services, they’re in the same position as the man on the street – they need registered trade mark protection.

Establishing trademark protection can be a tricky process. In particular, a trademark can’t describe the goods/services it relates to, or be too common or non-distinctive.

The “University Academy” part of their brand simply serves to describe the services the business is offering. In isolation, it’s unlikely to be capable of protection as a trade mark. The distinctive and protectable part is the “92”.

Giggs and Neville registered their trade mark(s) before Flood and so, provided they can establish that Flood’s use of the “UA92” mark is likely to lead members of the public confusing the two, they’re likely to be in the driving seat in this dispute.  

For further information, please get in touch with our Intellectual Property team.