IPR in Sports – Part 1


People are into sports activities since very long and some of them follow one game with immense emotions and with great passion. In this globalized world the passion for any sport has grown immensely. Because the growth in fan following around the globe for games like football and cricket it has created communities of the fans in different countries and because of that the passion for sports is growing and it is creating job opportunities for people around the globe. The sports industry connects people around the globe and fans around the world get attached to each other emotionally. This industry is growing rapidly and thus there is a need for Intellectual Property protection in the industry. Because Intellectual Property Rights are very important in the field of sports and it should be protected by various sports companies who promote various teams and also those teams should also protect their Intellectual Property around the world.

Intellectual Property Rights in the field of Sports:

Innovation and creativity are key drivers in the world of sports.[1] In this field many people are involved in making the sporting industry better and because of that the athletes are getting best possible opportunities and it also helps to improve their performance in their respective sports. When we talk about Intellectual Property we are talking more precisely about Patents, Copyright and Trademarks. Patents encourage in technological advancement which ultimately results in good sporting equipment. Trademarks distinguishes the unique identity of any team, event or any sporting gear. Copyright is related to broadcasting rights of the broadcasters who invest heavy amount of money to broadcast big sports events around the globe. So we can say that Intellectual Property Rights are basis of this industry.

If we take an example of any Sports Shoes and the talk about how IP Rights are involved in it then it goes as follows:

  • Patents may protect the innovation and the technology which is involved in the making of the shoes.
  • When we talk about ‘Designs’ then without a doubt it protects the look of the product.
  • Trademark plays an important role by distinguishing the shoes of one brand from the other shoes brand which could be similar to that and it also protects the reputation of the shoes brand in the market.
  • Copyright is involved in protecting the artwork which is used to make that particular shoes and also audio-visual creations used to publicize the shoe in the market.

Intellectual Property lies at the heart of the huge commercial opportunities offered by the world of sports. Intellectual Property rights (especially patents, trademarks and broadcasting rights) – and the legal protection they give – help to secure the economic value of the sports.[2] Business related affairs such as merchandising, advertising is controlled by IP Rights. If we see the various football clubs around the world like Manchester United, Liverpool or Real Madrid they are the perfect example of Intellectual Property capitalization. They have invested so much to protect their brand value in the market. In country like India where sports industry is growing day by day people are becoming aware of how important it is to invest in Intellectual Property. If we look at the current market of Indian Sports then there are lots of commercialization and investments are happening. Indian Government is also trying to protect the interest of players, teams and the investors also in many ways by the introduction of ‘National Sports (Development) Bill, 2011’ and hopefully it will be able to control the management of sports up to some extent.


Intellectual Property Rights play a very vital role in the sports industry. Many aspects where IP rights are involved such as Personality Rights, Domain Name etc. there is a chance of exploitation in a very large scale. So, I would say this concept of protection of IP rights in the sports industry should be considered seriously and it is the need of the hour.

[1] Sport and Intellectual Property (wipo.int)

[2] Sport and Intellectual Property (wipo.int)

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