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Inter Milan, Inter Miami face off in trademark dispute

Club Internacional de Futbol Miami crest
Club Internacional de Futbol Miami crest. Photo/MLSsoccer.com

Inter Miami FC doesn’t begin play in Major League Soccer until 2020, but is already in the thick of a hefty battle.

The stage, however, isn’t on a soccer pitch. It’s in court.

Football Club Internazionale Milano – Inter Milan, for short – is one of Italy’s most storied soccer clubs and is taking up a trademark case with the incoming Miami soccer team.

Inter Milan contends that the use of the word “Inter” infringes on a trademark application it filed in the United States. But Major League Soccer, the opposer on the case, is arguing that the word “Inter” is short for “international” and that the word is a descriptor, making it fair game for any organization to use.

“MLS’ position is that the use of “INTER” is merely descriptive of Inter Milan and its goods and services, relying on the grounds laid by examining attorneys,” a trademark dispute filed by the league on March 25, 2019 reads. “The term ‘INTER’ is short for “international” and ‘INTER’ is commonly used to describe soccer teams.

“Because of the widespread use of the term ‘INTER’ in soccer, the relevant consumers do not associate the term ‘INTER’ with one soccer team; ‘INTER’ by itself is not a source indicator in connection with goods and services associated with soccer, ‘INTER’ has not become distinctive as used on, or in connection with, the applicant’s goods and services in the United States.”

Inter Milan and Inter Miami FC have been at odds over the MLS entry’s name for some time. The Italian club, which was formed in 1908 and has won 18 Serie A titles, sent a sarcastic message to its fans on Twitter last fall when Inter Miami unveiled its name and crest.

In addition, David Beckham, one of Inter Miami’s co-owners, also played for AC Milan – Inter Milan’s bitter, crosstown rivals, a serendipitous circumstance that may further invigorate the Nerazzurri in their cause.

Inter Miami unveiled its named and crest on Sept. 5, 2018, but did not file for a trademark until Sept. 25, 2018, the lawsuit alleges.

A Trademark Trial and Appeal Board will have to consider both Inter Milan and Inter Miami’s positions and decide whether the word “Inter” belongs exclusively to one club or whether, as MLS contends, it’s just a descriptor that any club can use.

Inter Miami and Inter Milan aren’t the only two clubs in the world currently using “Inter” – look no further than Finland’s Inter Turku and Brazil’s Sport Club Internacional. MLS lawyers also indicate this in their lawsuit.

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