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Inter Miami ‘not concerned whatsoever’ with Inter Milan trademark issue

Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham (Credit: Getty Images)

Inter Miami CF has no concerns with its trademark dispute with Serie A giants Inter Milan, according to the Major League Soccer team’s co-owner Jorge Mas.

The Italian club filed a US Patent and Trademark application in 2014 to make “Inter” its exclusive brand in the United States, a move which would prevent Inter Miami from marketing itself as “Inter.”

Early last year, MLS filed a notice of opposition to the Inter Milan claim. In the filing, the league alleged that “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.”

The notice also claimed that “MLS will be damaged by the registration sought by Applicant because such a registration would prevent registration of the term ‘Inter’ with other wording upon a showing of acquired distinctiveness in connection with a soccer team.”

Inter Milan, however, successfully filed a motion with the the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to dismiss MLS’s “likelihood of confusion” claim. The ruling undercuts one of Inter Miami’s key legal arguments, though the legal fight is expected to continue this year.

Inter Miami executives, however, say they are unfazed by the situation. “It’s a non-issue. Inter Miami has become, without kicking a ball yet, a global brand. We [engage in] commerce and operate in the United States so I’m not concerned whatsoever,” Mas told reporters at a MLS media event in New York.

“This issue has nothing to do with Inter Miami the name, it has to do with exclusively with ‘Inter’, that one word. Regardless of the outcome, Inter Miami will be here hopefully for 50 to 100 years. We’re not concerned with the trademark issue whatsoever,” he said.

Inter Miami, which is part owned by former England and Manchester United midfielder David Beckham, will join MLS this year. The team will initially play in the revamped Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale – in a facility that will cost $120m, according to MLS commissioner Don Garber – while plans to build a soccer-specific stadium in Miami continue.

Mas said the team will play in Fort Lauderdale for two years, but it could extend to three years due to the ongoing stadium issue in Miami, which, he said, he expects to be resolved in the next 60-90 days. “I don’t foresee us being in Fort Lauderdale more than three years,” Mas said.

There have been recent reports that Qatar Airways could become Inter Miami’s jersey sponsor. Mas refused to confirm or deny this news, only saying that the team has been in discussion with global brands.

“As of now we do not have anything to announce,” he said. But he added: “Qatar Airways has significant involvement in the world of soccer, they are involved with multiple teams and Fifa.”

Beckham, for his part, said he had major doubts over the years that Inter Miami would ever fully exist following an extended series of delays and setbacks.

“I knew that it was always going to be a challenge [to launch this team]. I didn’t realize how big a challenge it was going to be,” Beckham said. “I thought when I announced [the team] seven years ago that in two years we would be playing in our own stadium. It’s probably been the hardest thing, but also the most rewarding thing.”

Earlier, on stage at the MLS media event to celebrate its 25th season, Mas predicted an extremely bright future for the league in the next 25 years.

“I think the MLS will be one of the top sports leagues in the United States. I think it will be on par or exceed the best leagues in the world, the Premier League or Serie A or La Liga worldwide,” Mas said. “I think that the MLS 25 years from now will be ‘Premier League-ish’ if we want to so-call it that on the metrics that leagues are measured by.”

Los Angeles FC lead owner Larry Berg also predicted that MLS will surpass Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League in popularity during the next 10 years.

“We definitely have the demographics in our favor, both in terms of youth and diversity. So I think we’ll pass baseball and hockey and be the No. 3 sport in the U.S. behind football and basketball,” Berg said. “I think we will be the league of choice. I think we’re already a league of choice to a certain extent, whether we can be a top-five league or a top-three league will really come down at the end of the day to money, our ability to compete for players.”

Garber later said of these statements that he learned many years ago, early in his tenure as MLS commissioner, that it was not necessarily helpful to try to compare MLS with other professional sports leagues in the United States.

“Our focus is how are we comparing to the other soccer leagues in the world? We’re have grown in credibility and respect,” Garber said. “But we still have an enormous way to go before a typical MLS team on a day-to-day basis could beat Real Madrid or Bayern Munich or Manchester United.”