A Sporting Chance for IPR

Sports was the focus of the 2019 World Intellectual Property Day, which seeks to raise awareness about patents, designs, trademarks and copyrights


Intellectual property rights (IPR) are one of the major pillars of a business. Protecting them is crucial for the encouragement of innovation and creativity. Secured rights ensure that creators get their deserved financial rewards. Such protection is not only important for business purposes but also in spheres such as art and culture too.


To spread awareness about property rights, the World Intellectual Property Rights Organization (WIPO) organizes World Intellectual Property Day on 26 April every year. WIPO began organizing the event in 2000 to sensitize people about patents, copyright, and designs and their impact on our daily lives. The event aims to “celebrate creativity and the contribution made by creators and innovators to the development of societies around the globe”.


World Intellectual Property Day 2019


The theme of World IP Day for 2019 was “Reach for Gold”, taking a closer look at the world of sports. According to WIPO, “It explores how innovation, creativity and the IP rights that encourage and protect them support the development of sports and its enjoyment around the world”.


Live coverage of events and instant updates on the Internet have helped sporting events become accessible to everyone around the world in real-time. Mass accessibility has turned sports into a multi-billion dollar industry. According to a study by global management consulting firm AT Kearney, as much as USD 620 billion (Rs 44,31,450 crores) is spent on the sports industry every year.


Major investments are made in sports facilities, in broadcasting, sports technologies and materials. It goes without saying that intellectual property like copyrights, trademarks and patents must be protected if companies and organizations wish to reap the fruits of their investments. This will also help them to continue coming up with new products and services.


Sports and IPR – how are they linked?


  • Patents: 

    Sports companies bring forth innovative, cutting-edge products to enhance performance. For instance, Speedo launched the LZR Racer swimsuit in 2008, which could lower race time by as much as 2-4 per cent! The suit was developed by Mectex of Italy along with the Australian Institute of Sport and help from NASA. Quite naturally, the makers will want patent protection so that they are able to benefit from their investment of resources and talent.


  • Trademarks: 

    Trademarks too play an important role in sports. Many sports brands enjoy global recognition and don’t want that to be diluted by others copying them. IPR ensures that this does not happen. For example, the Olympics symbol is universally recognized across the world, and the International Olympic Committee uses trademark protection to prevent misuse.


  • Copyright: 

    Another important aspect of IPR in sports is copyright. Fans across the world enjoy watching real-time sports events. It brings massive revenues for broadcasters, who have to shell out huge sums to procure broadcast rights. In 2017, broadcaster Sky won live rights to all England cricket matches on paying 200 million pounds sterling a year. The copyright thus belongs to Sky, and it will expect protection to be able to recover its investments. The IOC earned broadcast revenues of USD 2,868 million from the Rio Olympic Games held in 2016! Since the sum was reinvested in sports, everyone benefitted from copyright protection.


Enforcing IPRs in sports has numerous benefits while fostering innovation and creativity. They empower the financial model of sporting events from across the world. These rights lie at the heart of the sports ecosystem across the world, and all the relationships that make sporting events – both big and small – happen.


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