Cristiano Ronaldo in Legal Battle with Christopher Renzi over CR7 Trademark

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2014

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JUNE 16:  A dejected Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal looks on during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group G match between Germany and Portugal at Arena Fonte Nova on June 16, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
Martin Rose/Getty Images

Christopher Renzi, the current owner of the "CR7" trademark in the U.S., has opened legal proceedings against Cristiano Ronaldo and the company that controls his marketing affairs, JBS Textile Group.

Renzi is seeking official confirmation the moniker is his after receiving threatening letters from JBS, which possesses "imminent plans" to launch an underwear range featuring Ronaldo's name and symbolic stamp in America, reported by Andrew Chung of Reuters and via ESPN FC:

JBS has also asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel Renzi's trademark. But Renzi, who registered the 'CR7' trademark in 2009, has filed a lawsuit against Ronaldo in order to prove that he owns the licence to the term in the U.S.

Helder Santos/Associated Press

Renzi is said to have utilised the initials across a range of branded clothes. The three-character design relates to his name and date of birth, Oct. 7, but Ronaldo's representatives believe this was deliberately used in order to capitalise on the player's global marketability.

JBS indicates the CR7 tag is "so closely tied to the fame and reputation of Cristiano Ronaldo, that a connection with the soccer player would immediately be presumed by the general public," a factor that would likely increase the chances of making sales, per ESPN FC.

Ronaldo currently enjoys a number of prosperous sponsorship deals and is a marketing juggernaut himself. He earns around £14.1 million per year advertising Nike products and joined Tag Heuer prior to the World Cup. The former Manchester United star is also the face of Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer video game series, underlining his appeal across a range of different products.

Aug 10, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo (7) celebrates his goal against Inter Milan. Real Madrid defeated Inter Milan 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Similar to sports stars such as Roger Federer and Tiger Woods—both of whom have their own patented logos—Ronaldo's CR7 alias is recognisable throughout the world. As such, his plans to launch a range of underwear in the U.S. come after he faced the American national side at the 2014 World Cup.

While Ronaldo is yet to appear in Real Madrid's pre-season tour of the country, there's no doubt a lucrative market remains on offer. ESPN FC notes the player's 28 million Twitter followers and 93 million Facebook likes as a barometer of his appeal.

Sports Pro, in association with Eurosport, recently outlined Ronaldo as the world's fourth-most marketable athlete for the next three years. Real Madrid's Champions League and Copa del Rey triumphs will certainly aid his quest to sell shirts for the club who paid Manchester United £80 million for Ronaldo's services in 2009.

Sportswear branded in one star's image has become popular across the globe.
Sportswear branded in one star's image has become popular across the globe.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Michael Feldhuhn, Renzi's lawyer, indicated his client isn't worried about the likely battle to secure the rights. He suggests it isn't a matter of fame, but who used the styling first. 

"We just want them to leave us alone," Feldhuhn said, per ESPN FC. "We can show we were the first use of the CR7 name in commerce in America."

But Ronaldo may have other battles to forge across the coming year. Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC commented after his recent stint of injury problems:

Whether Renzi hangs on to the CR7 tag remains to be seen. It would be interesting to see what route Ronaldo's marketers take if the player isn't granted sole rights, meaning it may be most profitable to begin promoting a new label.

It's likely the Portuguese international can sell vast quantities of his underwear range with or without the CR7 tag attached, such is his current dominance.