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Sports and Intellectual Property

  • 12 June 2017
  • Articles

Intellectual property is transversal to all areas of society. In fact, it is practically impossible for any citizen not to be in daily contact with an intellectual property right​

Sport is no exception and is even an area which, over the last decades, has seen an exponential development, no longer being seen only as mere entertainment to become an industry with a significant impact on the world economy.

All IP rights have considerable expression in this area, with particular emphasis on brands.

If we focus on a mass sport, such as football, we soon realise that each football club has at least the official sponsorship of one brand shown on its players’ shirts and on other key points of communication with the public. At the same time, every football player, as an individual, also has the patronage of one of the major brands of sports articles to be used on his feet in the field.

Still talking about football, it should be noted that even the clubs are themselves, nowadays, trademarks (many of which of well-known notoriety) capable of generating millions in revenue around them, as in the case Real Madrid.

This proximity with IP rights is not restricted at all to football. Let us consider cycling, where teams competing in the main worldwide ‘’tours” are known by the name of the brands sponsoring them.

In fact, all large-scale sporting events, such as world football championships, international tennis tournaments, cycling events and, of course, the Olympic Games, are an excellent marketing vehicle to reach consumers and, therefore, largely disputed by companies willing to promote their brands. If we consider the paradigmatic case of the Super Bowl´s final, in the United States, in which brands may be paying many millions of dollars for only 30 seconds of this sporting event’s interval, because they want to advertise their products or services through commercials, purposely designed for that occasion (in 2016 the average cost per 30 seconds of advertising in the Super Bowl‘s final interval exceeded 5 million dollars).

Although brands stand out quite clearly in this world of sports, patents are not left out. Indeed, in recent years there has been constant innovation and technologic development in this area, so as to make sports equipment more functional and safe, enabling athletes to optimize their performances in their relevant sports. Probably most people have never thought about it, but the sole of their running shoes, for example, is protected by patent.

In terms of design, there are plenty of examples too. In fact, should there be a new look regarding a particular product, and a new right may be granted. Getting back to football, the well-known ornamental patterns of the several World and European Championship soccer balls are protected through this sport.

Last but not least, or inexpressive, we have to mention copyright and related rights, behind, for example, all commercials or broadcasting of sporting events.

The importance of Intellectual Property in the sports industry is, undoubtedly, paramount, if we consider that most commercial transactions in the area of sports are based on intellectual property rights. Therefore, may these two worlds keep on with this successful partnership which is so advantageous for global economy.

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