A Trademark On José Mourinho's Name Held Up His Move To Manchester United

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UPDATE: It’s being widely reported that Mourinho has signed a contract with United and that an official announcement is forthcoming. Presumably, the image rights issue outlined below has been resolved. Here’s the news story as originally written.

There are ways in which working in football makes your lived experience materially different from that of other people. Notably: when you’re looking for a new job, you don’t normally have to worry about your former employer holding a trademark on your name.

José Mourinho and his people have been in talks with Manchester United this week to finalize the agreement to name him manager starting next season. It was thought that the deal could be announced by now, but something is holding it up.

Back in 2005, during Mou’s first stint as manager at Chelsea, the club bought the rights to his name and image. Once secured, Chelsea filed a trademark application with the EU Intellectual Property Office, which was approved in April 2006.

The trademark allows Chelsea to license Mourinho’s name and ruggedly handsome face for use in various consumer products, from cigar holders to napkin rings to… lingerie?

More products were added to the trademark in November 2013, a few months into Mourinho’s second run at Stamford Bridge. The original trademark isn’t set to expire until March 2025.

Obviously, this is something of a problem for Manchester United. Given how much the club relies on commercial revenue and branded merchandise— they have a Global Noodle Partner, for crying out loud; the idea of selling or licensing merch with their new manager’s likeness and having even some of the proceeds go to one of their fiercest league rivals is more than enough to keep Ed Woodward up at night.

Chelsea have reportedly been looped into the negotiations with Mourinho in order to settle the image rights issue amicably. Chelsea seem to have considerable leverage here and stand to make a lot of money from Mourinho’s image rights over the next nine years, meaning United are going to have to put up a big ransom in order to get their man.

Modern football is really weird sometimes.