Sports Law under the Ambit of IPR in India

India is well-known for its numerous games. Sports have a long history in India, dating back to the Vedic era. Some games are thought to have originated in India, including chess, wrestling, polo, archery, and hockey. The laws have been used in cases concerning public order, narcotics, safety, disciplinary actions, behavior, and broader problems such as trade restraint, match-fixing, and sports exploitation. Defamation and privacy rights are also important considerations in sports law. India has a history of failing in big sporting events, such as the Olympics. One of the primary causes for this is India’s lack of consistent sports regulations. There is a need for a law that controls sports and brings together all of the relevant agencies.

sports law in IndiaThe Indian court has made a minor contribution to the development of sports law. In the realm of sports, adjudication usually entails the application of any laws. It has been observed that courts have abstained from adjudicating sports-related problems. This problem might be attributed to the ineptitude of Indian courts since sports concerns demand technical understanding in the field of games, which judicial officers in India or elsewhere are not properly qualified to provide.

 

IP and Sports

Money has taken on a huge role in all athletic events throughout the world. The corporatization of sports has become EXTREME.  The importance of marketing through franchising, as well as brand creation of sports, athletes, and events, has surpassed all other key components of a game. Dormant intellectual property rights (IPRs) vested in practically every component of the sports sector are being tapped into and monetized as the commercial perspective of sports grows by the day. IPRs are valuable assets that are utilized as marketing tools to promote athletic activities and related events, as well as sports clubs, teams, celebrity status, and so on.

Trademark and Sports

In the sports industry, trademarks are quite significant. Brand value is generated in athletic teams, clubs, players, and products with the introduction of sports event branding through the inclusion of elements such as a logo, captions, taglines, slogans, and team names (together referred to as trademarks). Team names and emblems improve a team’s, club’s, or player’s popularity ratings by creating a level of association with the public and fan base. Because of their notoriety, even the athletes’ names have become trademarks. Through ads, brand ambassadors, goodwill and reputation of the sponsors, and other means, this popularity and brand image finally translates into a monetary benefit. Basically, Trademark provides take over or sui generis regimes i.e. absolute merchandising rights in sports.

Copyright and Sports

Copyright in sports can be found in a variety of places, including artwork associated with logos and trademarks, promotions, slogans, photographs of players or events, and so on, all of which are protected in India under the Copyright Act, 1957. The registration of copyright is also not required, and it is very straightforward to protect under Indian rules. Despite the fact that copyright registration is not required in India and that international copyrights are protected in India because India is a signatory to the Berne Convention of 1906 for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and the International Copyright Order, 1999, it is advisable to register copyright in India because the copyright registration certificate is accepted as “proof of ownership” in courts and by police authorities, and is acted upon smoothly by them.

The law of copyright in India not only provides civil remedies such as permanent injunctions, damages or accounts of profits, delivery of infringing material for destruction, and legal costs, but it also makes infringement of copyright 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.

Patent and Sports

According to WIPO, “Patents encourage technological advances that result in better sporting equipment.”The patent literature may be used to tell the story of sports’ evolution. While athletes, sportsmen, and teams strive to set new records, win championships, or simply have fun, patents reveal innovative technology that can help athletes overcome difficulties or make sports more accessible and entertaining to the general public. Patents in sports can be seen with different aspects. For an instance, Initially, Basketball was played with a football but later on it evolved and was patented in 1929. Similarly, Hockey was a sport but because television watching of a hockey game was impeded by low visibility and distortion of the hockey puck, hockey games on television have not risen correspondingly. A technique to make the hockey puck more visible to the television audience was patented in 1996. Hence, any technological innovation made in the area of sports would come under patent.

Domain name and Sports

In India, domain names are also considered trademarks, and they play an important role in the protection of intellectual property rights related to sports. Huge amounts of information are disseminated and events are broadcasted over the internet, including online games related to sporting events, which has not only given cyber squatters opportunities to profit from the confusion caused solely by domain names but has also given them an enormous market share in branding and value creation. Websites have evolved into powerful tools for advertising, brand promotion, and following. Because the internet is a cost-effective method of reaching out to the public and creating awareness about a sporting event, team players, etc., various sponsor companies conduct online competitions, online ticket sales for sporting events, online shopping portals for the sale of merchandise, and so on. An unimaginative approach to domain names, on the other hand, may undermine the possibility of the advantages that may come from a sporting event. Domain names aid in the development of a cohesive brand image, portability, and SEO. To prevent sports lovers, fans, merchandise seekers, online gamers, and information seekers from making mistakes that lead to traffic being diverted to unethical websites operated by cyber squatters, it is now necessary to register several domain names with various permutations and combinations. Even websites masquerading as fan sites can be a source of cybersquatting, making it even more vital to be cautious when registering domain names. Registrations of a domain name with popular gTLDs, such as.com.net.org.biz.info,.asia,.name,.in,.co.in, etc., as well as low-cost ccTLDs, such as.at.be.cc.eu.ch.co.uk.dk.it.nl.ru.tv.us.ws, should be mandatory in order to promote as well as safeguard against brand misuse and trademark. Other governing principles for domain name registrations might include registering several variants of trademarks and phrases, as well as common and stupid spelling errors.

Conclusion

The sports industry has exploded as a source of entertainment. The commercialization of the same with the help of different types of IPR has gained huge profits. The new edition of commercial sports focuses on key intellectual property concerns such as trademarks, copyright, design, licensing, and franchising, among others. All of this indicates that IPR protection is unavoidable in situations like the one described above. To safeguard all stakeholders and their financial interests, legal contractual arrangements must be in place to protect all kinds of intellectual property generated in athletic events, teams, individual players, and so on.

Author: Ayushi Pandey – an intern at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorney,  in case of any queries please contact/write back to us via email saransh@iiprd.com

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