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News blog17 November 2023European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency4 min read

EU General Court rules in "Diego Maradona" trade mark ownership dispute - OpenAI offers to help ChatGPT users sued over copyright

EU General Court Rules On The "Diego Maradona" Trade Mark

In an order issued on 7 November, the General Court of the European Union (GC of the EU) settled the dispute over the "Diego Maradona" trade mark, upholding the decision of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) not to transfer the trade mark to Sattvica, an Argentinian company linked to the late footballer's former lawyer.

It all started in July 2001, when the popular footballer Diego Maradona applied to the EUIPO to register the EU trade mark "Diego Maradona", which covered a wide range of goods, from footwear and clothing to toiletries, and a variety of services, from catering and hospitality to hairdressing salons. The trade mark was registered in 2003.

The situation changed after Maradona's death in November 2020. In January 2021, Sattvica filed an application with the EUIPO to have the trade mark transferred to itself (as it previously belonged to Mr Maradona and would therefore be passed on to his successors) on the basis of an agreement that the company had passed in 2015 with the footballer, granting it commercial exploitation rights and general right to use the trade mark. The EUIPO initially accepted the assignment and registered the transfer in the trade mark database, but later revoked it at the request of Maradona's heirs. In March 2022, EUIPO confirmed that its initial decision to register the transfer was an error as Sattvica had not provided sufficient documentation to properly support the assignment of the trade mark in its favour.

Sattvica appealed to the General Court, but the GC rejected the request on the grounds that the documents submitted by Sattvica did not formally justify the assignment of the trade mark in the context of a contract signed between the company and Maradona. Furthermore, the Court noted that since Maradona had died before the application for registration of the assignment was filed, Sattvica had no opportunity to correct the irregularities or submit other relevant documents.

It should be borne in mind that the GC's judgment is not final, as it may be appealed to the European Union Court of Justice. This appeal, which is limited to points of law, must be lodged within two months and ten days of notification of the decision. Therefore, Sattvica can still appeal the court's decision.

The trade mark "Diego Maradona" is not only the epicenter of a legal dispute over intellectual property rights, but also a symbol of the complex legacy left behind by the legendary Argentine footballer. Indeed, in the aftermath of his death, several legal disputes have arisen on different fronts: nurses are being sued for alleged negligence in their care of Maradona, while five of his eight children are involved in a dispute over a large inheritance estimated at between 70 and 95 million euros.


Open AI offers to pay legal fees for ChatGPT users sued over copyright

Open AI, the company behind ChatGPT, has taken a decisive step to support its corporate users. Rather than taking the conventional approach of removing copyrighted material from ChatGPT's training dataset, Open AI is opting to shield its customers by shouldering the financial burden associated with copyright infringement lawsuits.

On 6 November, at the time of the announcement, Open AI’s CEO, Sam Altman, claimed that they can defend their customers and cover the costs incurred should they face legal claims relating to copyright infringement. This will apply both to users of ChatGPT and to developers who integrate ChatGPT functionality into their applications or services using the interface provided by Open AI will be able to benefit from it.

Since its public launch in November 2022, ChatGPT has seen remarkable growth, accumulating around 180.5 million users and 1.5 billion website visits in September 2023. However, success has not come without legal challenges. OpenAI is facing copyright infringement lawsuits, highlighting the complicated legal landscape surrounding generative AI.

Generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT, are trained on datasets that contain copyrighted material. While public domain language is exempt, the majority of the data used to train ChatGPT is copyrighted. In the case of ChatGPT, its training began with a massive dataset of more than 45 TB of information extracted from the Internet, including news, books, websites, etc... The “mining” of data necessary for the training of the algorithm and subsequent use of this data to generate answers can become problematic when large parts of these materials are protected via copyright, as is the case for most articles and content which can be found online.

Open AI is not the first company to have this initiative, commonly known as a “Copyright Shield”. It joins other industry leaders such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon in offering legal protection to users of generative AI software. Moreover, others like Adobe and Getty Images, have added financial liability insurance to their image creation software.

Open AI is currently dealing with class action lawsuits, including claims from notable figures such as George R.R. Martin, the creator of the Game of Thrones book series, and the Authors Guild, a professional organisation. For more information on these lawsuits, we invite you to read our previous blogs discussing the many lawsuits Open AI has received, which you can see here, here and here.


Publication date
17 November 2023
European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency