So Liverpool FC have backed down in their bid to register the Liver Bird emblem as a trademark of the club. This is due to the move being met with not insubstantial opposition and I have to say that I'm intrigued.
Liverpool City Council were preparing a legal counter to The Reds' application based on the fact that the Liver Bird is used as a symbol of the city in administrative and denotative capacities. But Liverpool (and I mean the football club) made it very clear that the city would be welcome to use the bird as they already do, at no charge, and the action was simply being undertaken to have some legal footing when it came to the battle against unofficial Liverpool merchandise. Currently the feeling is that non-affiliated shirts, footballs, scarves etc are being sold as competition to the "genuine" apparell and the like. This is what Liverpool wanted to stamp out.
The city were worried that Liverpool would eventually renege on the above agreement and attach a fee to the use of "their" emblem. I think this would have been unlikely and not in the football club's best interests but the decisions have now been taken. So the biggest upshot of this is that the club have to continue with the monstrous multi-coloured crest that adorns the shirts at the moment.
In a vain attempt to protect their replica sales Liverpool in recent years trademarked a varyingly styled complexocrest (yep. Real word. Made it up just now). It, honourably, features tributes to both the Shankly Gates and the Hillsborough memorial, as well as the Liver Bird, but is inferior to the simpler "LFC" emblems of the classic Liverpool shirts. You only need to check on fansites, forums and the galleries on FootballShirtCulture and DesignFootball.com to see that Liverpool fans want the basic Liver Bird emblem back. The trademarking of the Liver Bird would have let this happen.
While I can take on board the worries of the council and fully understand that the bird represents the city we should remember how big football is on Merseyside. So many people in the area are football fans therefore I do think that a large percentage of the city understand the Liver Bird's importance to the club. And do Evertonians claim the Liver Bird as their own? Are they happy to see it on their city's signage or their newspaper? This isn't rhetorical, I just don't know, but I wouldn't imagine they feel an attachment to it. Please tell me if I'm wrong.
For this entire post I have used "Liverpool" to refer to the football club, if you put "Liverpool" into Google the first result will be the club website and I knew Liverpool was a football team before I knew it was a city. I would put money on more people in the world being able to tell you what colour Liverpool FC wear than be able to tell you whether the city is in the north or south of England. I bet most of those people would also know that Liverpool use the Liver Bird as an emblem. Sometimes the question needs to concern what is bigger, the city or the club? There's a clear winner in my mind.
While I admit that legal ownership of something that is claimed as belonging to a loosely identified community and/or fans is worrying, perhaps the emblem can be of most use as a Liverpool FC trademark. The commercial benefit will always be realised via the club rather than the city but until it can own it then it is only reaping part of its potential. Whilst it seems ironic that the likes of AFC Liverpool (and my own fledgling club Marceltipool) who are set up by fans of Liverpool FC would need to ask permission to use the Liver Bird, it does mean that Liverpool merchandise may be given a boost that could propell the club forward. Why else would the owners have considered this step?
Whatever our stance, the best comment I've heard on this episode I found on the original story. Sarcasm may be the lowest form of wit but it can be very, very funny:
"[Liverpool FC] should also trademark the letters L, F and C while they're at it. I for one don't mind doing without 12% of the alphabet to safeguard their revenue."
Amen to that.