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Intellectual Property Rights and Sports

By Anoop Garg, Head-Legal ABS & Enterprise Business and Aircel Smart Money, Aircel

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Anoop Garg, Head-Legal ABS & Enterprise Business and Aircel Smart Money, Aircel

The Intellectual Property Rights is a branch of law which protects the finer exhibitions of human accomplishments like literary, artistic musical creations, sports etc. There is an untouched rather than a huge scope of IPR in sports arena.

Now days Sports are one of the major sources of name, fame, money, and career and off-course of entertainment and all together a big business market. Sports created national & International events like Olympic Games/ Asian/ Commonwealth games etc. In recent Olympic games at Rio have created a movement not only in India but in the World too which shows the passion of people both old and young to achieve milestone in one or the other sports.

Post-independence (after 1970) and in recent past most of the things around sports have changed and sporting events are no more what they were used to be. Across the World massive commercialization of Sports “everything for sale” are started by way of in terms of selling exclusive broadcasting rights, marketing through franchisees, brand building of the sports, products, players, advertisement & publications, commercial advertisements on Television via-satellite, digital marketing and even logos advertising on sportswear of the players. The money has acquired a mammoth role in all the sporting events, beating all other major facets of any sport.

In today’s World IPR are valuable assets that are used as marketing tools towards the branding of sporting games and connected events, Sports Clubs, Teams, Celebrity status etc.

In India, we can observe in the last decade a huge increase in the number of franchise based leagues comes-up. Its known to all how in the Sport of Cricket, Indian Premier League (IPL) brought a revolution not only in the life of Sport persons but also Viewers, Fans and Sport loving persons. We have numerous examples of how teams and players have started making their own brands to taglines which are trademarked and used commercially to excerpt gains & benefits from the Sports.

Purchase of Cricket Teams by Big Individuals, Big Business Houses and Film Industry Celebrities (few examples are Ms. Nita Ambani “Mumbai Indians”,Sharukh Khan “KKR- Kolkata Knight Riders”, Rajasthan Royals by “ Shilpa Shetty & Raj Kundra, Chennai Super Kings-CSR by Businessman ACC Chairman Srinivasan). After IPL we have seen a tremendous growth in sports leagues for e.g. Indian Super League, Hockey India League, Pro Kabaddi League, International Premier Tennis League. This massive change in sporting culture in India has broadened the scope of sporting brands and hence a bright and promising future of Intellectual Property Rights ahead to young lawyers.

If you see internationally teams like Real Madrid, Football Club Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea etc. are few examples of very famous teams which have created a huge market through their brands, even Cartoons of Walt Disney-“Donald & Mickey” and individuals are also global brands like Roger Federer and Tiger Woods. Merchandise of these teams and individuals generate their own kind of stir in the market. According to an international report, Real Madrid and Manchester United sold a touching near to 1.2 million T-shirts replicas each which clearly show how huge market potential these brands captured and this doesn’t includes other merchandise which these brands promotes/sell. Add to your surprise many of these brands have an extensive field of personal accessories ranging from T-shirts to- Watches- to bags, you just name it and they have a product to fulfill the needs of their followers and fans.

You cannot imagine how gigantic scope of IPR in the sports, firstly comes the “Patent” right which protects the new technology from being reproduced, and then the “Design” & look of the paraphernalia is protected and thereafter a “Trademark” which protects the product from other similar products and the “Reputation” that comes with the original name/brand and lastly the “Copyright” which would protect any creative publication of the product.

By these shared examples one can easily understand how sports have created various amazing Intellectual Property rights for individuals, sports persons, Teams, Clubs, and Celebrities etc. Opportunities in Intellectual Property Rights in Sports will create a revolutionary space in the filed for young lawyers and a brighter & promising future ahead.

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