Manchester United will be renamed Manchester UFC from Football Manager 22 onwards after the resolution of a trademark dispute.
The Premier League club sued Football Manager publisher Sega in May last year, 16 years after the release of Sports Interactive's first Football Manager game, and 28 years after the launch of the first Championship Manager game.
Manchester United had launched legal action against Sega and Sports Interactive for infringing its trademark.
Countering, Sega and Sports Interactive said the use of the club's name in the popular simulation series was "a legitimate reference to the Manchester United football team in a football context", and pointed out it had been used in Football Manager and its predecessor Championship Manager since 1992 "without complaint by the claimant".
United also claimed Football Manager infringed its trademark of the Manchester United logo by not using the official Manchester United crest in the game. This "deprives the registered proprietor of its right to have the club crest licensed", Manchester United's lawyers said.
"Consumers expect to see the club crest next to the name Manchester United... and this failure to do so amounts to wrongful use," United argued, although the club's lawyer accepted this argument was "somewhat novel, and certainly in the context of video games, but it is certainly arguable".
Countering this, Sega and Sports Interactive's lawyer said the "simplified" club badge used in the game was "one of 14 generic logo templates that is randomly chosen by the Football Manager game engine each time a new game is started" and "clearly indicates that the use of the [logo of] Manchester United is not licensed by the claimant".
On the name issue, Sega and Sports Interactive's lawyer said United was trying to "prevent legitimate competition in the video games field by preventing parties not licensed by the claimant from using the name of the Manchester United football team within such games".
"The claimant has acquiesced in the use by the defendants of the name of the Manchester United football team in the Football Manager game and cannot now complain of such use," read Sega and Sports Interactive's written defence.
Preventing Football Manager from using Manchester United's name "would amount to an unreasonable restraint on the right to freedom of expression to restrain the use of the words 'Manchester United' to refer to a team in a computer game".
Brilliantly, Sega and Sports Interactive's lawyer pointed out Sports Interactive had sent copies of Football Manager to officials and players at the club for years, "and there have been a number of positive press comments and tweets about the game by them".
"Further, the claimant's staff working in the data analytics and scouting teams have contacted SI on various occasions asking for access to the Football Manager database for scouting and research purposes."
Current Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has spoken openly about how he started playing Football Manager when he was a player at the club - and it even helped perfect his tactics.
In 2019, Manchester United signed a deal with Konami for the club to authentically appear in PES 2020. The deal was such that the club's legendary players, such as David Beckham and Park Ji-Sung, as well as Old Trafford appeared prominently in the game. Midfielder Scott McTominay was made an official PES 2020 ambassador.
Manchester United is also one of the clubs available to play with at the launch of Konami's eFootball (née Pro Evolution Soccer), and also appears authentically in EA Sports' FIFA series.
Now, Manchester United and Sega have agreed a settlement to "amicably" resolve their trademark dispute.
"Both parties are pleased to resolve this matter to their mutual satisfaction," Sports Interactive tweeted from the official Football Manager account.
This means that, from this year's game onwards, Manchester United will be named 'Manchester UFC' or 'Man UFC'.
"These name changes have been made purely to settle the dispute on a no admissions basis," Sports Interactive added.
"SEGA and Sports Interactive maintain that they do not need a licence to use the Manchester United name but have made the change as a gesture of goodwill so that both parties can move on."
That's that, then. I doubt Sports Interactive will send out copies of Football Manager 22 to Manchester United players this year.