IPR and Sports
The industry of sports has always been a prodigious sector
across the world bringing together entertainment, games, culture and pecuniary
business, right from the barbaric era through the glorious days of Caesar to
the twenty first century money making sports industry. Sporting games have
always been encouraged by chieftain, governments, private individuals and
entities interested not only in the games themselves but more in the financial
business quotient that sports entail. Sports which, for a very prolonged time,
was considered an activity which was recreational, has nowadays become a
thorough materialistic activity effectuating elephantine profits.
Earlier the sporting events were based on the competition
between different talents, but now money has procured a gigantic role in all
these events. Corporatization of sports has become gargantuan. Enormous
importance has been gained by different marketing aptitudes like franchising or
brand building of a sport or a player, overtaking other important components of
These distinct aptitudes like merchandising, franchising and
branding are the major contributors of revenues etc. which includes
exploitation of different intellectual property rights of sports clubs. With
gradual proliferation in the business angle of sports, dormant Intellectual
Property Rights (IPRs) vesting in almost every facet of the sports industry are
being tapped into and capitalized.
Branding of sporting games and connected events, teams,
sports clubs, celebrity status etc. can all be made feasible through the
constructive assets i.e. IPRs which act as a marketing tool to make all of it
Marketing dexterities are applied in fabrication,
perpetuation, popularization and sustenance of distinctive marks, logos and
personalities, while copyrights vesting in brand and image inception etc. are
protected to reap benefits on an exclusive basis considering the very nature of
competition in sports.
This article will highlight various components of
Intellectual Property that are devised in the undertaking of a club or a sports
Trademarks in sports are usually in the embodiment of
captions, logos or tag lines etc. They are a distinctive indicator or a sigil
representing a business or trade. The most commonly created IP in sports is trademark.
It acts as a catalyst for brand building in the sports business. Popularity of
a certain sport is measured by the public rating. This measurement is further
based on the trademark. It has become an ideogram of identification.
Sponsorships and merchandises are some the forms in which it helps in
augmenting the brand value. A franchise’s brand equity is ascertained by
sponsorship revenues and advertisement revenues which are in consociation with
Thus, protection of trademarks is of utmost priority as to indemnify
commercial interests. Trademarks Act, 1999 protects the trademarks of sports
clubs and further provides protection to its proprietors. The act states that
any proprietor can apply for registration under miscellaneous classes of
services and goods in relation to which the trademarks are being maneuvered.
Civil and criminal remedies are made available in the cases of trademark
infringement. Another remedy available for the proprietor is under the
anti-dilution law (for well-known or famous marks).
Domain names has become a principal component in the sports
industry as business identifier, as the use of internet for the commercial activity
has increased momentously. It helps in finding the appropriate site on the
internet and helps in meliorating communication of players and teams with the
common masses. Events are broadcasted on these sites which implements the
dissemination of enormous information related to sports. This has helped in
acquiring huge market value in branding. One can note that apart from sports
clubs having sites of their own, there are some international sportsmen who
have their own sites like www.brettlee.com, www.sachintendulkar.in etc.
Cyber squatters have been given an opportunity to take benefit
of the confusion which may be attributable solely to domain names. Because of
the lack of separate domain name registration in India, one can register the
domain name as trademark.
These rights are apprehended by the Indian Copyright Act,
1957. The term for exercising broadcasting rights is twenty-five years. These
rights are usually exercised by the broadcasting companies which also allows them
to rebroadcast the same event.
According to this Act, any person not withholding the license
to broadcast from the owner: –
Rebroadcasts the broadcast.
On payment of fees cause the broadcast to be
heard or seen by the public.
Makes a video or sound recording of the
Sells these recording to the public or made any
offer to sell or hire these recordings.
Is liable for the punishment of infringement of
the broadcasting rights. Unauthorized downloading also comes under this whose
punishment is mentioned in the Section 43 of the Information Technology Act,
2000, which provides for a punishment of Rs. One crore.
Lack of a
definite legal framework in India has led to the rise of Ambush Marketing. It
refers to a company’s attempt to capitalize over the popularity of a well-known
or established event or property without the appropriate authorization or
consent of the necessary parties. It involves a third party to create an
association with the sportsmen or any event in which they are participating
without their approval. This leads to the defying of official partners and
sponsors in acquiring their share of the commercial value due to their official
designation. Ambush marketing has become a very cheap way of attracting
customers to one’s brand.
may include; –
Unofficial corporate sponsorship.
Unauthorized use of event logo or seal on the
False claims of being the official sponsors of
a particular team.
Creating unofficial films, videos or websites.
legislation for combating ambush marketing is absent in India. Most of these
cases are considered under various IP laws like copyright or trademark law.