BUSINESS

Sweden’s race bet monopoly uses trademark to fight online rival

TAGs: atg, legolas.bet, rune andersson, Sweden

legolasbet-sweden-horseracing-atg-trademark-suitSweden’s horserace betting monopoly is waging a trademark war with a Malta-based online upstart horning in on the monopoly’s turf.

The AB Trav Och Galopp (ATG) monopoly is like most horseracing operators these days, i.e. people are losing interest in their reason for being. All the more reason to object to an unauthorized interloper like Legolas Invest, which recently announced plans to launch the Malta-licensed Legolas.bet site in Sweden.

Legolas is run by Rune Andersson (pictured), a Swedish racing industry figure who believes the government takes too big a cut of ATG’s proceeds to fund non-racing initiatives. Andersson reportedly tried to convince ATG’s owners, the Swedish Trotting Association, to set up operations in Malta to reduce their tax burden but they wouldn’t listen. Frustrated, Andersson formed Legolas.bet, which claims to return 40% of its proceeds to the local racing industry.

Swedish media outlet Realtid reported that ATG fought back by filing a trademark claim on the name Legolas in Sweden, then followed that up with a trademark infringement suit in Stockholm District Court that seeks fines of SEK 3m (US $346k) for each and every time that Legolas.bet uses its own name in Swedish-facing marketing.

Legolas.bet, which has filed its own trademark claims on the Legolas name in both Sweden and the European Union, filed its own lawsuit accusing ATG of abusing trademark protection rules, pointing out that ATG sells no products or services under the name Legolas. Legolas.bet’s attorneys claim this is the equivalent of Sweden’s Svenska Spel betting monopoly registering trademarks on Manchester United or Real Madrid.

ATG marketing manager Sten Andersen noted that there was once a very famous Swedish racehorse by the name of Legolas, and that the company has used the horse’s image in some of its marketing, which Andersen claims justifies the filing of the trademark claim.

ATG has claimed that Legolas.bet is diluting ATG’s rightful trademark and this damage will “drastically” worsen if the site is allowed to launch in Sweden and actually takes a bite out of ATG’s revenue.

Sweden is currently mulling a liberalization of its online gambling market that will likely spell the end of the online monopolies held by ATG and Svenska Spel. That process might not actually unfold until 2019, but ATG’s Anderson said his group was already facing competition and operators’ ability to differentiate themselves “through brands, signs and symbols are important.”

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