Wolves bare their fangs over copyright infringement claim

You’d think that newly promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers would have enough on their plate just ensuring survival in the Premiership. Unfortunately, the club now has another worry given that it has been sued in the intellectual property courts in London by an individual who claims copyright in the club’s iconic ‘wolf head’ logo that the club has used since 1979.

Earlier this year, Peter Davies, who claims to have created the wolf head logo as long ago as 1963, issued copyright infringement proceedings seeking damages and an injunction restraining the club from making any further use of the logo.

The claimant alleges that the production of the Wolverhampton Wanderers’ football kit bearing the wolf head logo together with production of various other merchandise; the reproduction of the wolf head logo on the outside and inside of the club’s stadium, Molineux; on the training ground; on match tickets and programs; and on the club’s website, are all infringements of the claimant’s copyright.

But is has been far from a straightforward legal proceeding. The claimant alleges that he first contacted Wolverhampton Wanderers back in 1979 to complain that the newly adopted wolf head logo was an unauthorised reproduction of his own work.  The club says it is unable to locate any correspondence to corroborate this.  And in a further twist, the claimant apparently lost copyright in his work when he was made bankrupt in 1996.  The claimant was discharged from bankruptcy some 3 years later but did not apparently recover his copyrights until as recently as July 2018.

For its part, the club denies all infringement, claiming that the logo comes as a result of the club specifically commissioning the wolf head logo from another designer in 1979.

The proceedings remain at an early stage. It will be interesting to see whether Wolves are as up to this IP challenge as they have been so far to the stresses and strains of the Premiership (which has been impressive – Wolves currently sit in 9th, a place above Manchester United).

The case does though emphasise the importance in any design/logo work that full records be kept to evidence the independent design that has been commissioned. Given the length of time that copyright subsists (and as illustrated in this present case), these records may need to be kept for many decades.

This originally featured on Inside sports law, the Norton Rose Fulbright blog covering the latest legal developments in the sports sector. Visit the blog and subscribe for updates.