Image Courtesy: Abhijit Tembhekar via FlickrWhether you’re a casual soccer fan or a die-hard devotee of the “beautiful game,” chances are that you know who Christiano Ronaldo is. As the most recent winner of the Ballon d’Or award, given to the European footballer of the year, the 29-year-old Portuguese forward is considered to be on the very short list for consideration as the best player in the world. He’s paid a princely sum (21 million Euros) to play for Real Madrid, arguably the biggest club in the world. He’s graced the covers of magazines and video games, appeared in numerous ads across the world, and has a Twitter following nearly triple the population of his home country. He could rightly be considered one of the most famous people in the world, with his eye fixed on cracking the American market. But a recent trademark suit in the US could pose a threat to his efforts to expand his fame stateside.

A Rhode Island man named Christopher Renzi filed suit against Ronaldo and the Danish company JBS Textile Group over the rights to the phrase “CR7.” The phrase, often used in reference to Ronaldo by fans and commentators, is a combination of his initials and his jersey number. In the suit, Renzi alleges that he received letters from JBS’ attorneys insisting that he give up his trademark to the phrase CR7, as the group plans to enter the US market to sell Ronaldo’s branded CR7 underwear, eventually expanding into shirts and shoes.  JBS has also taken the step of petitioning the US Patent and Trademark Office to cancel Renzi’s trademark. In their filing, JBS claims that the phrase CR7 is so closely tied to Ronaldo that the public would immediately assume a connection between his brand and Renzi’s merchandise.

Renzi filed for the trademark on CR7 in 2009, and has sold jeans and t-shirts with the phrase on it. He also has a website that promotes his seven-minute workout video, which also uses CR7. While Renzi’s mark is similarly based around his initials, the “7” comes from his date of birth, October 7. Renzi and his attorney claim that JBS has offered them a “very small” amount of money to stop using the mark. Rather than accept the offer, Renzi is looking for the court to affirm his right to the mark.

While Christiano Ronaldo may have the power of celebrity and considerable financial resources in his corner, he still can’t claim to have been first to the market in the United States. By registering his trademark, Renzi has a defense that even one of the world’s top goal scorers can’t break down.

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