The FIFA Ballon d’Or is presented annually to the footballer with the best performance during the prior season. The winner is determined by a vote from selected coaches, captains, and journalists from around the world. Lionel Messi has won the award four times (2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012).
The translation for ballon d’or is ‘golden ball’.
Various football associations have had similar awards titled ‘Ballon d’or’, but not FIFA until 2010. Previously, a similar honor was presented as FIFA World Player of the Year. There exists, however, a minor issue with the title of the award and FIFA’s attempt to trademark the name – the translation. As noted above, ballon d’or means golden ball.
The original trademark lies with the couple who owns a sportswear company called Golden Balls. The company trademarked ‘Golden Balls Ltd’ in 2001. As noted above, the FIFA Ballon d’Or was not created until 2010.
Due to lawyer fees and legal maters, the company has been forced to suspend operation of its store in West Hampstead. An estimated $166,540 has been spent to date. No location for the store currently appears on Google Maps, but this link provides a general idea of the proximity to London.
Ironically, representatives of the Ballon d’Or awarded by a French press group contacted Golden Balls in 2007 claiming the company was infringing upon the copyright. It was this award and group that merged with FIFA in 2010 further complicating the matter and expanding the scale of the legal case.
A decision from the European Union’s Court of Justice is expected to be made in July.
What do you think about the legal case between Golden Balls Ltd and FIFA over the rights to the Ballon d’Or trademark? Let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter.