Kellog’s Special K launches trademark offensive against Australian tennis player

Having first used the Special K brand in 1955, food manufacturing company Kellogg’s is countering a move by Australian tennis player Thanasi Kokkinakis to use the term for his own merchandise line.

Kokkinakis, a 21 year-old tennis player who achieved a career-high ranking of 69 in June 2015, has plans to use Special K – his nickname – to launch a range of clothing and merchandise. This is according to a story in The Advertiser, a newspaper based in Adelaide, Australia.

Sports stars across a number of difference disciplines have long been able to bolster their earnings by using their brand to market their own products or those of third parties. The 2016 Forbes Fab 40 list, which establishes the world’s most powerful and valuable sports brands, found that fellow tennis player Roger Federer has the most valuable athlete brand (worth $36m annually) – followed by football players Lionel Messi and Christiano Ronaldo.

Despite sliding down the rankings in recent years following injury problems, Kokkinakis is hoping his persona, combined with fellow outspoken Australian player Nick Kyrgios, is worth something off the court.

The Advertiser reported that Kellogg’s has launched federal court proceedings in Adelaide in a preemptive move to stop Kokkinakis using Special K on clothing. This comes 17 months after the cereal brand first lodged an opposition against the tennis player’s trademark.

A quote on the paper’s website read from a Kellogg’s spokesperson read: “Special K is obviously an iconic cereal brand for Kellogg’s in Australia and a favourite breakfast cereal of Australia.”

The BBC, meanwhile, was told: “The Kokkinakis Company has applied to register Special K as a trademark and we are defending our trademark.”

Other recent and notable trademark battles have seen Aberdeen football club look to protect its half-time snack, British retailer ASOS cough up £20m after a battle with a Swiss brand and Bentley encounter problems with extending its reach.

Kokkinakis who does have his own version of a Special K trademark, held by a company his father owns, will have to wait on the Australian courts to see if he can use the distinctive moniker.

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Hunter Ruthven

Hunter Ruthven is the editor of Real Business. He is also the editor of Business Advice, a title focused solely on a section of the business community currently underserved – micro companies. Alongside this, he is part of the team that hosts the Growing Business Awards, First Women Awards and Future 50 initiative.

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