The Slovenia Times

German-owned retailer under fire for copyrighting Slovenian fan chant

Slovenia basketball team fans. Photo: Anže Malovrh/STA

Hofer, the discount supermarket chain that is part of the German-owned global group Aldi, has caused a furore in Slovenia after it transpired that it copyrighted a popular Slovenian sports fan chant.

Kdor ne skače, ni Sloven'c (Those who don't jump aren't Slovenes) is a popular chant sung by Slovenian sporting fans universally in particular when supporting national teams. Accompanied by jumping, it has been used by fans at games since the mid-1990s. It has since become a national chant of sorts.

But as groups of fans are preparing to head to Germany to cheer the national team on at the European Football Championship next month, it was brought to light last week that Hofer had registered its copyright to the chant with the Intellectual Property Office as far back as 2020.

Having asked for the copyright for ten years, its copyright is valid until 31 July 2029, ten years after it made the application. The news provoked an outcry in particular because unlike some other retailers and other companies, Hofer does not sponsor sports.

"The chant has become part of Slovenia's cultural heritage. It's perverse that someone should say: no one has registered that yet, but I'm going to do it and it will be mine now," Tomaž Ambrožič, director of the sport marketing agency Sport Media Focus, commented for TV Slovenija on 24 May.

Lawyer Blaž Tomažin Bolcar, one of the first to raise the issue in public, sees the move as an example of unfair business practice known as "ambush marketing". It associates the brand with sports although it has no connection to sports whatsoever, thus misleading consumers.

While Hofer would not respond to media queries for comment, the Intellectual Property Office said their duty is to examine only absolute grounds for refusal of registration as listed by law but relative reasons are only examined based on a complaint, which has not been filed in this case, so they granted the copyright.

The decision is still open to a potential challenge, and the Slovenian Olympic Committee (OKS) has announced it will do just that.

"It's unacceptable that a retailer should use a popular chant for commercial purposes, all the while not supporting Slovenian sports. We will fight this with all available means," OKS secretary general Tomaž Jontes said on 27 May.

"The OKS has sent a letter of protest to Hofer for abuse of the popular chant for commercial purposes, demanding that this ends. However, legally, the procedure was in line with the rules," said Jontes.

"We are in the final stages of preparing a claim for the Intellectual Property Office to find its decision null and void. We will also appeal to the ethics tribunal of the Advertising Chamber," Jontes added.


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