Lionel Messi has won a legal battle allowing him to trademark his iconic surname and join eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo and the CR7 brand in the global marketplace.
An EU court has ruled that the Barcelona superstar is far too famous to be confused with any other business, freeing him to sell branded sports goods around the world.
The ruling represents a blow to Spanish cycling gear manufacture Massi, who had challenged the trademark on the grounds that it is too similar to its own.
“Lionel Messi may register his trade mark ‘MESSI’ for sports equipment and clothing,” said a ruling by the Luxembourg-based General Court of the European Union.
“The football player’s fame counteracts the visual and phonetic similarities between his trade mark and the trade mark ‘MASSI’ belonging to a Spanish company.”
Thursday’s decision represents the end of a seven-year fight for Messi, with the Argentine having first applied for trademark with the EU’s intellectual property office in 2011.
Massi lodged at appeal in the same year, citing the “likelihood of confusion” with its brand.
The trademark office agreed at that time, but Messi has now emerged victorious.
Judges in the latest case decided that while the trademarks in question are “very similar phonetically”, it is wrong to assume that only people with an interest in football and sport would be aware of who Messi is.
“Mr Messi is, in fact, a well-known public figure who can be seen on television and who is regularly discussed on television or on the radio,” the court said.
In the wake of the EU ruling, Messi can now be expected to enhance a personal fortune which already has him sat atop of the football rich list.
France Football revealed recently that the mercurial Argentine has overtaken Real Madrid star Ronaldo at the summit of that particular chart.
Messi is said to be making €126 million from salary, bonuses and commercial revenue in the current campaign, while his rival at Santiago Bernabeu is pulling in €94m.
Ronaldo has already branched out well beyond the world of football in his commercial ventures, although his CR7 trademark has been drawn into legal disputes of its own – with American fitness enthusiast Christopher Renzi opposing the entry of the Portuguese’s underwear range into the US market back in 2014.