Sports Law & IPR

Agnihotri & Jha Associates® has a strong as well as established client base. We provide a stream of cutting-edge instructions on all of the biggest commercial, regulatory, contentious as well as non-contentious issues in the sports sector.

Sports and Intellectual Property (IP) are inter-related. Patents encourage technological advances that result in better sporting gears leading to better sporting events. Trademarks and designs contribute to the distinct identity of not just the events but the teams and players appearances.

Trademark is one of the most commonly associated IP with sports. It contributes in the building of brands in the sports business. Trademark is protected in India under the Trademarks Act, 1999 along with features like a logo, captions, taglines, slogans, and team names, etc. that which are collectively referred as trademarks and that hold commercial value as they create a level of association with public and fan following and that which are essential for brand value creation in sports teams, clubs, sponsors, and athletes.

The names of the franchise, tag lines, etc. capable of being registered as trademarks further assist brand building. Businesses link their products and images with celebrities and support sporting events. Celebrity athletes also has ‘Personality Rights’, also known as the right of publicity which prevents unauthorized use of their names and other personal attributes. The brand image and popularity converts into monetary profits through advertisements, brand ambassadors, goodwill, and reputation of sponsors.

Domain names in sports which are also treated as trademarks by Indian courts play a substantial role in protection of IPR associated with sports. Domain names helps in building the brand image, portability, and search engine optimization.

The right to control the commercial exploitation of one’s name, image, likeness, or any other aspect of personal identity is the idea behind personality rights. Personality rights of a sportsperson plays an important role in the brand creation of individual sports players as well as teams. Celebrity status can lead to various forms of image creation, brand endorsement, and revenue generation exploiting the fame factor. In this day and age, it is very much possible for the celebrities to register their name and likeness as trademarks under the Trademark Law. Mere association of the name of a team, its logo or a team player could offer unprecedented mileage to the person or entity using such name or logo. It is a loss to the team, team owner, and the player and an unwarranted gain for the entity associating such name or logo for their own commercial benefits without taking any permission or even paying any license fee or royalty. Therefore a clear line of demarcation between the sportsmen’s individual personality rights and his image as a part of the team is very important. Therefore, any such unauthorized use of the trademark would amount to unfair trade practice, unfair competition, and also dilution of goodwill and reputation of the respective proprietor.

Character merchandising is also becoming a massive revenue-making business. In simple words, the marketing of a name or an image for monetary gain by using a celebrity’s persona or public image is known as ‘character merchandising’. The sports association may have a right over his likeness or an image as a team member dressed in the team jersey but one cannot use his image just because the player is a part of some particular sports club.

Copyright law protects the expression of ideas and not the ideas itself. Copyright subsists in literary works, musical works, artistic works, dramatic works, photographs, sound recordings, and cinematographic films. Copyright is protected from the moment the work is created. This right allows the owner to reproduce, make copies, sell, make derivative works, adapt the work, license, and assign the work. The artwork in the logos, the literature in the promotional material, the merchandise, and so on are all subject matter of Copyright.

Broadcasting rights is another set of IP that is created during screening of the sporting events. These rights are available apart from those rights that are present in the content of a live match. The term of broadcasting rights is twenty five (25) years. Generally, these rights lie with the broadcasting companies. This right allows the owner to rebroadcast the same. Section 43 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, provides for a penalty up to 1 crore.

Agnihotri & Jha Associates® has a strong and established client base, consisting of sports celebrities’ agencies, event organizers and other sports rights-holders, providing a steady stream of cutting-edge instructions on all of the biggest commercial, regulatory, contentious and non-contentious issues in the Sports sector. We work with numerous sporting disciplines, including cricket and football amongst others.

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