Ooh aah, Cantona registers new ambition

Football fans will be kicking themselves for missing a giant money- spinning opportunity. The terrace chant of "Ooh Aah Cantona", sung with such fervour by the Manchester United faithful whenever their French hero scored, looks set to become a trademark, netting the player further wealth.

Eric Cantona, who recently announced his retirement from the game at the tender age of 31, has applied to register his name and the phrases "Ooh Aah Cantona" and "Cantona 7" as commercial trademarks, the patent office has confirmed.

If the applications are successful, Cantona will be able to prevent anyone else selling clothing, magazines or posters featuring his name or the catchphrases.

A multi-million-pound merchandising industry has already built up around the philosophical Frenchman, which financial experts believe will continue to grow in spite of his retirement. Die-hard football refuseniks know him for his portrayal of a satisfied passenger on the Eurostar where he talks of how travelling by train under the Channel lets him breathe, think and contemplate the finer points of life.

The patents office in Newport, Gwent, has received the three applications, which each cost around pounds 250, in the name of Eric Cantona, c/o Manchester United plc.

And just in case anyone is planning to introduce Cantona Cola into cafes and bars lining the boulevards of Paris, he has also applied for a European Community trademark which, if successful, means that his name will be copyright in the 15 member states of the EU.

The three UK applications cover mainly clothing, including footwear and headgear, and stationery, but the European trademark would cover films, videos, teatowels and even soft drinks.

One of the applications was made in August 1996 and the others were lodged in January this year, the patents office said.

Fans will be reassured that they are unlikely to have to pay the man a fee or face a court action if they feel the urge one Saturday to resurrect the "Ooh Aah Cantona" chant in memory of their hero.

He has to specify exactly what goods the trademarks are to cover.

The Patent Office said applications usually take around six to seven months to complete if there are no objections.

"First you have to fill in a form, then we look at it and if we decide it can be registered as a trademark we publish it in our journal," a spokesman said.

"Then anyone has the right to object within three months. If the application is successful, the owner then has to renew the application every ten years.

"It is not unusual for people to register their names and I think other sports stars have done the same, including Ryan Giggs and Paul Gascoigne."

So, save for any namesakes who might be aghast at the prospect of being ridiculed for having a tea towel named after them, Cantona's business venture sounds like it might work.

The name Cantona is already registered at the Patent Office with the company Exxon who use it to sell oil, but he might have been spurred into this latest move by a the High Court action he brought last year to stop a company selling Cantona Red Wine.

And what of the future for Cantona goods? Could we be taking out Cantona Life Insurance, subscribing to the Cantona Sports Chanel and travelling by Eurostar in Cantona Class?