IP rights and the Sport Sector: how IP assets can be protected

While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of sport, IP is an essential and ingrained part of the industry as a whole.

Intellectual Property registration helps everyone involved in the sports (and fitness) industry, ranging from viewers to players to equipment manufacturers, enjoy and improve the sporting landscape.

Trade marks are the most obvious form of IP for sport. Many of the world’s most recognisable trade marks are owned by leading equipment manufacturers and teams to distinguish themselves from others who may offer similar good or services.

NIKE likely wouldn’t have anywhere near the clout in the market that it currently does without the ability to trade mark its name and iconic swoosh logo. The same can be said for famous sports clubs, such as Manchester United, which use their illustrious name to leverage lucrative sponsorship deals and broadcasting deals.

Even individual sportspeople are using their names as trade marks. For example, tennis superstar Maria Sharapova has used her well-known name to launch a number of brands and ventures, including the Sugarpova (a portmanteau of Sugar and Sharapova) range of premium candy.

Inventions and patents also have a role to play in sport, whether it be in the form of footwear that tracks a player’s movements, high-speed cameras that track ball trajectory (used in cricket) or a racquet that tracks how often a player hits the ball in the “sweet spot” and how many revolutions per minute they’re forcing the ball into as they return it to their opponent. Not only do these inventions provide data that can enhance the viewer experience, it also provides information to players/teams that may help them adapt and improve their game to give themselves a competitive edge over the opponent who may not have access to the same technology through favourable sponsorships and partnerships with patent owners.

The oft-overlooked designs are another key component utilised in sports. While a fancy looking piece of footwear might not have any particular new technology that can be protected, its distinctive look can be protected by a design to prevent copying. Shoes like the “Air Jordan” are iconic and protected by designs or “design patents” to prevent unauthorised copying and exploitation of the design created by Nike while allowing basketball fanatics to wear shoes created for their idols.

The sports and fitness industry is rapidly evolving. If you are seeking information or guidance on the best ways to  protect your sports related innovation, please do not hesitate to contact us at here at MBIP.

ipday2019 sportspeople silhouettes

This year, we celebrate World IP Day with an emphasis on the sports sector. Find out more from the World Intellectual Property Organization: https://www.wipo.int/ip-outreach/en/ipday/