ROLE OF IPR IN SPORTS

A sport shoe may be covered by a number of IP rights like the patents which protect the inventions used to create the shoe, the designs protect the shoe’s “look”, while the Copyright covers all artwork and audio-visual works used to publicize the shoe. In addition, Trademarks differentiate the shoe from similar items and preserve the “reputation” and “name” of the shoe. The Olympic symbol representing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is covered under the Nairobi Treaty which protects the Olympic Symbol. During the formation of a sports team, there are various imaginative and inventive logos along with fancy taglines so as to make it famous. Today, sports have achieved so much essence that it is a multi-million dollar industry. Sports such as football, tennis & cricket with huge fan following have made its way massive marketing potential for organizers. Let us check how different IPR are involved in sports.

COPYRIGHT

The artwork associated with the logo, emblem under the Copyright Act, 1957, contains provisions for the preservation of different aspects of sporting activities. Under section 55 of the Act, it provides legal remedies for infringement of an author’s artwork which includes Permanent, Temporary, Interlocutory, and Mareva Injunctions, Anton Pillar Orders, Reports of Income or Damages, and Litigation Costs[1].

TRADEMARK

Trademarks are very important in the field of sports. The continuous use of elements like logo, a mark, taglines, captions, slogans helps in contributing the development of brand value in apparel, sports clubs, athletes, and teams. The fans help any sports clubs, players gain popularity. Under section 135 of the Trademarks Act ,1999 include both criminal & civil remedies for trademark infringement and passing off. As Trademark Act does not require the registration of a brand, but, the rights can still be exercised under the law even if that person has not registered his brand. The courts consider domain names as part of trademark in regard to sports. Domain names help in building brand image and performing search engine optimization. In today’s world, it is vital to register multiple domain names with different permutations and combinations so that it can be protected from cyber squatters as they can harm the sports enthusiasts, fans, merchandise buyers, online gamers, and information seekers from committing errors and falling into the trap of the frauds. Not only domain names but also personality rights do play an important role in respect of sports. The famous footballer Messi was recently allowed a trademark registration on ‘Messi’ by the European Court of Justice, ruling that there was no likelihood of confusion with an earlier registered mark ‘Massi’. Another instance was that when the former India captain Sourav Ganguly returned from Lords, & found that Tata Tea Ltd. was promoting itself by providing in each tea packet a postcard to consumers to congratulate Sourav Ganguly. This created a wrong impression in the minds of customers that the player was associated with the company. The court ruled in favour of Ganguly by stating that his fame and popularity is his IP.

TRADE SECRET

Sports teams gather proprietary information in the form of statistical analysis, scouting reports, dietary regimens, physiological metrics, and psychological assessment methods to gain a possible competitive advantage over their rivals. Sports equipment often comprises secret new compounds and materials to allow sportspersons to perform better[2].

PATENTS

The sports industry is such an industry which directly utilizes the benefits of patent. Novel technologies help sportspersons jump higher, swim faster, cycle longer, hit a ball harder and farther[3].

DESIGNS

The key to make a sports equipment attractive is design of that specific product. A sports equipment will only sell like hot dogs when the design is unique and the brand ambassador is some one who is very popular sport personality.

CAUSES OF IP DISPUTES IN SPORTS

The most common issue for the dispute in sports in India are infringement of trademarks, brand abuse, using the name of a sports personality without permission or without paying any license fee or royalty, Copyright Infringement infringement of design etc. These matters cause damage to the goodwill, huge losses, unfair trade practice & unfair competition in the market.

CONCLUSION

The business of sports is now a global matter, generating jobs for employees of broadcasters, manufacturers, advertisers, and others across the world. There is also a powerful interdependence between individual players which is associated with the particular sport, the team, leagues. Fans have a deep connection with teams, sports clubs, players, and its merchandise, which have to be protected under the trademark law. Therefore, it is integral to protect and enforce IPRs in the sports domain, which helps in creating a thriving commercial ecosystem for sports and all of its related industries. Therefore, in order to circumvent disputes, it is recommended that the IP is registered, as this enables ownership to be accurately established. Companies therefore need to continuously monitor their IPR by instituting effective systems, policies and regulations to prevent infringement[4].


[1]  Dhyey Vyas-Role of IPR in sports law, Role of IPR in Sports Laws – Important 2021 (lawsuperior.com), visited on 21-07-2021 at 15:06hrs.

[2] The Role of Intellectual Property Rights in Sports (kashishworld.com), visited on 21-07-2021 at 16:37hrs.

[3] IBID.

[4] Kirit S. Javali-Sports and intellectual property in India: an emerging sector, Sports and intellectual property in India: an emerging sector — Financier Worldwide, visited on 21-07-2021 at 18:46hrs.

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