What’s in a name? Not the first ‘Derby’… not the first ‘Derby Wheel’

One of the many challenges facing an organisation seeking to launch a whole new sporting competition to a global audience, is choosing a suitable name. It needs to be unclaimed. It needs to be memorable. It needs to work, and be easy to say, in multiple languages.

The word Derby first became associated with races and racing in England in 1780, with the first running of the Derby Stakes horse race, now known simply as The Derby. Many countries now have a prestigious horse race named a Derby; and the word has become associated with racing and sport more generally, covering everything from ‘demolition derby’ motor races to the contact sport of roller derby.

Derby was also used by Icederby, another initiative backed by DJ Hyun, which proposed to bring the keirin cycling model to globalised speed-skating. Its plans for game-changing prize money fuelled by gambling proceeds will sound very familiar to those following the development of DerbyWheel. A test event was held successfully in February 2020, but plans were ultimately halted by Covid and the threat of lifetime bans by skating’s world governing body, later ruled disproportionate by the European Court of Justice.

Icederby International Co.,Ltd is listed as the owner of the derbywheel.com domain name, first registered in December 2021. The contact details noted on the domain record reference the domain icederby.net, registered in 2007.

Wheel is often a poetic shorthand for bicycles. The Dutch word for bike racing is wielrennen, literally ‘wheel running’; and many cycling clubs in English-speaking countries use the name Wheelers.

The name Derby Wheel (note the space between) has been in use for several years by a horse racing-themed video slot game presented by gambling operator Play’n GO, which describes itself as ‘one of the largest entertainment suppliers of online slots to the worldwide casino industry’.

‘DERBY WHEEL’ is one of hundreds of trademarks held by an associated company, Play’n GO Marks Ltd (Malta) covering the UK, USA and European Union. Trademark applications must indicate the ‘class’ of product or service to which they will relate: Play’n GO was granted a trademark under Classes 9 (‘Electrical and Scientific Apparatus’) and 41 (‘Education and Entertainment’) (PDF). Class 41 covers gambling, online gaming and the organisation of sports competitions, so things might get complicated, but we aren’t trademark lawyers.

The biggest challenge of all might be the pronunciation. Does ‘derby’ rhyme with Barbie, or Herbie? Given the word’s origins in the UK, you might expect the UK’s preference for the former to win – but we notice the 2022 promotional video opted for the latter.