Say what? Did we read it right? Sports Law and IPR? How is sports related to IPR and why do people need IPR protection for sports activities? Well, yes. History is testament to the fact that people are drawn to sports activities and, from passion, it has evolved into a commercial practice, making it a global industry with uncountable opportunities. Due to its global scale, the sports sector has played a significant role in fusing different cultures and economies during the past century. The global economy is being increasingly impacted by the sports business, which also mobilizes resources, invests in public infrastructure, and creates jobs. In the world of sports, the reach of intellectual property rights is crucial. Virtually every aspect of the sports sector is protected by intellectual property rights. Sports serve as a showcase for the use of intellectual property, which also drives the industry of sports.


Intellectual property rights like copyrights, trademarks, and designs have grown to be quite valuable in the world of sports. Athletic equipment may be protected by patent, design, copyright, and trademark laws. It is possible to register a patent for the technology used in swimwear, a registered trade mark for the logo that is printed on the clothing, copyright for the creator, and industrial design registration for the actual physical design. These registrations aid in preserving the worth of the sporting goods’ distinctive designs and marketing prowess.


Intellectual property rights are marketed in order to brand sporting events, teams, celebrities, broadcasts, and media deals, among other things. Different football teams, including Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Liverpool are a wonderful illustration of brand capitalization through intellectual property. [2] Intellectual property promotes the expansion of the sports sector, which also makes it possible for sporting organizations to raise money for events and contributes to the growth of sports.




Trademarks play a big role in the sports sector. With the development of sports event branding, brand value is created in athletic teams, clubs, players, and products through the incorporation of components such as logo, captions, taglines, slogans, and team names (together referred to as trademarks). The popularity ratings of a team, club, or player are increased by team names and insignia since they foster a sense of association with the general public and fan base. Even the names of the players have been trademarked as a result of their fame. This popularity and brand image eventually converts into financial gain through advertisements, brand ambassadors, goodwill and reputation of the sponsors, and other means. In essence, trademarks offer sui generis or takeover regimes, or complete commercialization rights in sports.




The Copyright Act, 1957 in India protects all of these forms of copyright, which can be found in sports in a variety of areas, such as artwork used in logos and trademarks, advertisements, slogans, photos of athletes or sporting events, etc. It is also not necessary to register copyright, and Indian law makes it quite easy to protect one’s work. Even though international copyrights are protected in India because India is a signatory to the International Copyright Order, 1999 and the Berne Convention of 1906 for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works, copyright registration is still advised because the copyright registration certificate is recognized as “proof of ownership” in India.


The Indian copyright law makes copyright infringement a cognizable offense punishable by a term of not less than six months but not more than three years and a fine of not less than INR 50,000 but not more than INR 100,000 in addition to civil remedies like permanent injunctions, damages or accounts of profits, delivery of infringing material for destruction, and legal costs.




Patents “promote technological improvements that lead to better athletic equipment,” according to WIPO. The history of sports can be told using the patent literature. Patents disclose cutting-edge technology that can aid athletes in overcoming challenges or make sports more accessible and enjoyable to the general public, even as athletes, sportsmen, and teams attempt to break records, win championships, or just have fun. Sports patents can be seen from a variety of angles. As an illustration, Basketball was first played with a football, but it later changed and was patented in 1929.




It means “an attack from hidden position”. Protection against ambush marketing is one of the most important aspects of Intellectual Property Rights in sports. Ambush marketing has acquired a huge space in sporting events and it refers to companies promoting their brands or products by associating them with a team, league or event without paying for the privilege. The controversy between Pepsi and Coca Cola in Pepsi Co., Inc. and Others. vs Hindustan Coca Cola Ltd. and Another [4] is a classic example of ambush marketing in India where in the court issued a permanent injunction to the defendant by restraining its advertisements being broadcasted.

The creativity of these ambushers makes it necessary to adopt specific national legislation in order to prevent ambush marketing and also to implement strategies to counter the threat of ambush campaigns by securing trademarks, copyright registrations for all images, logos in sports events by entering into contractual obligations with explicit terms and conditions for the use of these Intellectual property rights. Many countries have already considered specific ambush marketing legislations as sporting events are becoming more and more lucrative business.




As the sports business becomes more commercialized, intellectual property protection in events like trademark, copyright, design, licensing, etc. is unavoidable. In addition to legal protection, intellectual property rights aid in preserving sports’ economic worth.