United Arab Emirates: Significance Of Intellectual Property Law In Sports

Last Updated: 11 September 2019
Article by Althea E. Rozario

The protection of Intellectual Property Rights emerged since 500 BC and has evolved to the present day to meet our requirements. The World Intellectual Property Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations along with many Treaties promulgated by the World Trade Organization ensures the protection of the Rights all over the World. Guarding such rights are vital for the development of technology and innovation in a particular field, thereby encouraging creativity and inventions.

Intellectual Property Day is celebrated every year to create awareness among people about the significance of such rights granted to creators and inventors. The theme of the 2019 World IP Day that was celebrated on the 26th of April 2019 was "Reach for Gold: IP and Sports". Sports are not only a means of recreation but also a billion-dollar business. To cite an example in this context is the importance of Intellectual Property Rights in Cricket, a sport that originated in South East England in the late 16th century and has developed into a global sport today, along with it has also developed the businesses related to it like cricket accessories, the tournaments, food & beverage sold during the events and much more. Many aspects of Intellectual Property Law – Trademarks, Patents, and Copyrights come into play in any sport. In general, Intellectual Property Rights are integral to sports, which aids its growth. The business including but not limited to sponsorship, merchandising, broadcasting, etc, bring in revenue to the game favorable to its development.

To start with, branding plays a pivotal role in the financial success of a sport. The logos, the team names and much more would be registered as a trademark in order to secure protection. These logos are also used on accessories like T-shirts, coffee mugs, etc. In the event of not registering such marks, they could be used by any person, thereby getting an undue benefit. Even the names of players have to be registered as many brands use the players' names to endorse their brands. The players have the right to benefit from their success and popularity. They could also license their trademarks to other companies who would be profited and at the same time, the players could also have control over its use. There are instances where the names of players were registered by other parties where there are chances that the players were not aware of such registrations. One such example is the registration of a trademark that features the player's name which was done in India which could be seen on the Indian Intellectual Property Website. Ponting is a very famous Australian Cricketer, who is considered as the greatest batsmen of all times. He was the captain of the Australian Cricket team, during the Australian Cricket Team's reigning era. An individual has registered the word mark "PONTING" in class 25 and is benefitting from the use of the name. There are high chances that the Cricketer is not even aware of such a registration.

Not only trademarks but also the designs have to be registered as that of the prize trophy, uniform designs, or anything that would be the identity of a team, or player and the game itself.

Once the design or the trademarks have been successfully registered, they could be enforced in that country which covers the registration, that is legal action could be initiated against anyone using these marks or designs without the authorization of the owner. Licensing would be a good option for brand owners to commercially benefit from these registrations. By licensing, the owner would give other companies the right to use their trademarks or designs on their merchandise. The brand owners would, in turn, receive license fees as well as royalties.

Sports as such cannot be patented as they are ideas, nevertheless, there are many aspects related to it that could be patented which indirectly would result in the protection of the sport. The Modified Chess Game with Additional Game Pieces is a variant of the old chess game whereby a new piece called the beast could block enemy pieces and allow the friendly ones to pass through it or bounce off it. This was granted a patent in the US as this new game satisfied the qualifying criteria of new and useful purpose.

Not only is the game that could be patented, but also the equipment and accessories related to sports. In the 1970s, in the US patent was granted to athletic shoes, in which modifications were made to the sole which was useful in the games where the players had to stop, start and change directions abruptly. This drastically changed the course of the athletic shoe designs that were used in sports.

Copyrights also have a major role to play in sports in the area of telecasting and broadcasting. Recently, it is the audiovisual media piracy that is affecting the sports sectors. It could be offline as well as online, which involves the use of transmission signals and recordings. An instance of offline infringement is when there is an unlicensed transmission of the game. This could be where the material used is without a license or beyond the scope of the license. Also, live events face such kind of piracy issues. Many times, clippings or highlights of the best parts of the game are uploaded and made available to the public which would in most cases be without the right holder's approval. It is in these aspects that the significance of copyrights comes to play.

To conclude, it can be clearly seen that Intellectual Property Rights play a significant role in the sports business in turn which leads to the growth and development of Sports. Without proper protection of the Intellectual Property Rights in Sport, it would be difficult to increase the revenue of that sport, hence its development.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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