Albion: has the name for ancient Britain really been trademarked by football clubs?

Football teams don’t always succeed with trademark applications but Brighton have.
Football teams don’t always succeed with trademark applications but Brighton have. Photograph: Grant Rooney Premium/Alamy

Name: Albion.

Age: Ancient.

Appearance: Nook-shotten isle.

Come again? You know, nook-shotten: all breaking out in corners and angles.

And this is an island we’re talking about? Yup: “climate foggy, raw and dull, on whom, as in despite, the sun looks pale, killing their fruit with frowns.”

Is that from Tripadvisor? Actually it’s from Henry V, but it’s a one-star review either way.

Remind me never to go there on holiday. It may be too late, for Albion is Britain.

Since when? Since at least the sixth century BC, when it was referred to as such in the voyages of the Carthaginian explorer Himilco the Navigator.

Well I’ll be. This romantic alternative appellation has been employed by writers for centuries, and is permanently associated with the adjective “perfidious” thanks to Britain’s longstanding international reputation for diplomatic underhandedness.

I just thought it was a football name. It’s that too, and there lies the issue – in an attempt to trademark this ancient name for our glorious, treacherous island.

Which team? West Brom or Brighton & Hove? Both.

I see the problem. Brighton applied for the trademark more than a year ago, prompting West Brom to seek the same protection. They have now both successfully secured 10-year trademarks for the names “The Albion” and “Albion” with respect to merchandise including shirts, mugs and pencil sharpeners.

How are writers and historians taking the news? Not well. Author Peter Ackroyd said: “Albion is one of the most ancient names for Britain and cannot be owned.”

I’m no legal expert, but he appears to be wrong there. Indeed. Perfidious Albion 1, Classicists 0.

Is this the first time a common name for somewhere has been legally claimed by a football side? No. Chelsea FC managed to trademark “Chelsea”, although Liverpool FC failed in a similar bid in 2019.

This Albion trademark sounds like a particular setback for poets, folk singers and misty-eyed myth-makers everywhere. Not to mention the likes of Albion Rovers, Burton Albion, Witton Albion and Ossett Albion.

Oh yeah. I hadn’t really thought about/heard of them. Brighton and West Brom both claim the purpose of their trademarks is to curb the sale of unofficial merchandise, and it will not be used against other similarly named teams.

What about Shakespeare? Is he in the clear? He’s beyond the reach of the law, at any rate.

Do say: “All things begin and end in Albion’s ancient Druid rocky shore.”

Don’t say: “That’s lovely, but will it fit on a pencil sharpener?”

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