Role Of Intellectual Property Rights In Sports Industry

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Published On: 9th June, 2024

Authored By: Suvrajeet Sahoo


Sports is the activity which is, since time immemorial, The word sports when comes to our mind, it itself creates a notion of excitement in our body, let it be the young kid of the home or 60 years old grandpa. Sports is one of the most valuable thing a human being can perform to keep himself fit and healthy.[1] One thing  common between every sportsman is that how much they love to play sports, that much also they love to watch it also. They support and cheer their loved team and loved players, starting from making of plaque cards to making of tattoos of their favourite sports personality and many more of such things. The craze among the people for sports  has made sports industry the most fastest and rapid growing industry all across the world.

Sports industry the most grown industry since its origin and beginning. It is an ever-growing industry almost relevant to all the aspects of the society. But what all are the factors that has made sports industry grow so much in short span of time?[2] To some extent the introduction of Intellectual Property rights in sports has provided advancement in sports industry. This article examines how different IP rights(copyright, Trademark, Patent, Trade Secret, personality rights, broadcasting rights and IP licensing & sponsorship) have helped in improving the growth of sports industry in different ways.

Keywords- Sports, Intellectual Property Rights(IPR), Sports Industry, IP Rights.


All the sports league consists of different franchises and teams. Based on the popularity and success of the team, the team owner’s and franchise comes up with different kinds of merchandise and accessories to promote their team among their fans[3]. During this process of producing merchandise and accessories, the owners are sometime unaware about the fact that their product may lie into hands of people who may use that product in wrongful manner or might copy their original artistic work. So the franchise who invest their time, effort and money in making of this product would want to protect their products in order to avoid this kind of duplication.

To protect the rights of the parent company, comes the rescue of intellectual property rights where the parent company save their original work and has sole rights over that product in the market. These kinds of IP rights provide a edge to the company over their competitiors in the market, The companies with the help of IP intellects has to continuously evolve and  formulate strategy in order to bring new innovation and for the growth of the company[4].


Copyright is a type of intellectual property rights that help to preserve the original artistic and research work of the artist. It gives the exclusive right to the owner of the work to publish his craft, reproduce it and puts a limitation to other to imitate or replicate such work[5].

The Indian copyright act of ,1957[6] helps in protecting copyright in sports. The copyright laws actually is very helpful for photographers or creators  who creates images, wallpaper and visual photographs of players and publish them in their official social media pages.              for Eg:- Louis Vuitton has assigned Annie Leibovitz (a famous photographer) to click a photograph of showing both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo together for louis Vuitton campaign ad. However, as both the personality were not physically presented in the same place during taking of photograph, but both of them were asked to pose in their respective positions before being composited together in editing, so due to the editing ability and photoshop the photographer was able to create his own artistic photo. So this photo can’t be now publish anywhere without the appropriate permission of the owner as it is the own creation of the photographer and imitating the photograph  will lead to infringement of the copyright act so here the copyright act preserves the original artistic creature of the artist[7].

Similar way, the authors who write their own books, blogs, articles and posts related to sports or about famous sports personalities gets their work to be copyright, so that the original essence of the artist does not go into vain. franchise owners gets their players sports events, analysis, biographies and other related written contents copyright too.


As sports have developed so much in the recent era, the need for trademarks has arisen along with that. A trademark is a symbol, design, or logo of a particular team or franchise. Trademarks helps to protect the team name, logo and its other products such as merchandise and other accessories, and it cannot be used by any other person without the permission of the owner. the Trademarks are protected under Trademarks act,1999[8]

In today’s time trademark gives a team its special identification and not only helps in getting a team recognized by people but also differentiate own identity among other contains elements like logo, brand mark , taglines, captions, and slogans among others which leads to the growth of brand value of the team in whole market. It is the trademark which helps the team to get barnd value through selling of merchandise and other equipments and generate revenues from those helps to create  a popularity among the fans and through advertisement generate monetary profit.

Few examples of trademarks related aspects in Indian sports:-

Board of cricket control in India (BCCI):- The BCCI is the national governing body of cricket in India which has its own rules and regulations and has its own IP property associated with them. The BCCI owns trademark rights for Indian cricket team name, logo and symbol associated with them.

All Indian football federation:- The AIFF is the governing body of football, futsal and beach soccer in India. The AIFF owns the trademarks rights of the logo, name and other associate product of the Indian football team.

Indian premier league (IPL):- IPL is a twenty20 cricket league in india, it has franchisee and teaqms those are protected by trademarks. Such as Kolkata knight riders, royal challengers Bengaluru, Chennai super kings and Mumbai Indians all have their unique and distinctive logo, symbols , taglines, that are trademarked and its unauthorization used is prohibited.

Indian super league (ISL) – ISL has its own teams such as mohunbagan fc, east Bengal fc, kerala blasters fc, and chennaiyin fc all have their own symbols and products and all have their own merchandise and products design and trademarks their product.


Patents are usually granted when there has been a new invention or innovation in technology. Patent is more of understood as the scientific aspect of IP rights. patent is guided by the patent act of 1970[9]  Patent is usually granted to people for the exclusive protection of the product. Patenting a product or a specific procedure has played a huge role in sports industry and in future growth of action also patent will have a huge role to play. Patents protect inventions that are new, useful innovative and inventive, thus having a suitable subject matter. Patents are granted for processes or methods which can be protected. Basically, Patents are of two types Process patients and product patents.  Process patents are those which protects the method or processes by which a particular product is innovated or invented. It minimizes the element of monopoly in the market. Product patents are those which protects the physical object, device or composition of the product itself. It offers the inventor higher protection by reducing the level of competition in the market for the same product.

For example, amazon has filed patent for single-click checkout and has enjoyed   monopoly in market for 20 long years. similarly, Giant sport company, Nike has filed many patents for inventions related to running shoes, and the list goes on. Many such big sports manufacturing companies are there who have patented their sports equipment and apparel. Some example that are patented in sports industry are sports equipment such as balls, boards and gloves sports technology like wearable technology, data tracking and virtual reality. Fitness solution such as inclusion of data analytics tools related to sports. Sports patents often includes sports drinks, nutritional supplements, and all processed food and beverages which has a secret ingredients present in them.

According to the WIPO, various patents are filed frequently for gym equipment and training apparel.

Broadcasting rights

Broadcasting is the distribution of information and communication of media from a single source to a wide audience through an electronic medium, that usually takes place through video and audio content. The relationship between sports and television media and other modes of media has been tremendous and is backed and supported by copyrights and related rights.

The royalties that broadcasters receive from selling other media outlets their exclusive footage allow them to make investments in the costly organizational and technical endeavors required to provide sporting events to a global audience.

In recent scenario, After an online bid, Disney-owned Star India was able to maintain TV broadcasting rights for the Indian Premier League from 2023 to 2027. The bid to stream the Twenty20 League digitally for the same duration was won by Viacom 18.

Licensing & sponsorships

Licensing and sponsorship are crucial because they give teams and clubs a competitive edge in the marketplace. The secret to sales and brand creation is exclusivity. The products should be appropriately covered by the applicable agreements and contracts because there is a significant risk of counterfeiting[10].

By maintaining total ownership, sports organizations can greatly increase their potential revenue through the licensing of their patents, trademarks, and copyrights. The same suggests that although the original owner of the right did permit another party to utilize the rights in exchange for a fee, that person still retains claim to the patent, trademark, or copyright.

Trade secrets

In order to maintain a competitive edge and create value, sports also produce a significant amount of trade secrets. To obtain a possible competitive edge over their rivals, teams gather proprietary information in the form of scouting reports, nutritional plans, physiological measures, and psychological assessment procedures. Sports equipment frequently contains novel, proprietary chemicals and materials to improve performance. Businesses spend a lot of money on complex focus groups to determine the ideal combination of features and designs that will increase the appeal and marketability of their products[11].

Personality rights

Personality rights are unique to each sports star and team when it comes to building their brand. Being a celebrity creates a variety of images, endorses brands, and generates income. The team names, logos, venues, captions, taglines, and slogans must be registered as trademarks by the federations, organizers, team owners, and producers of sports equipment. It is necessary for the players to take the effort to register their names and phrases as trademarks;

Due to the name and fame, a number of athletes, including Tiger Woods, Virat Kohli, and Cristiano Ronaldo, are known worldwide. Being well-liked allows athletes to become more well-known throughout the world and earn a lot of money from commercial endeavours like branding, advertising, and serving as brand ambassadors for particular companies[12].

Case laws

[1] ESPN star sports vs global broadcast news ltd. and ors[13]

The court noted that the context, the duration of the original work borrowed, and the purpose may never be disregarded when determining whether or not a given activity qualifies as “fair dealing.” The ad-interim injunction requested by the plaintiff cannot be granted. In cases where claims for broadcast reproduction rights are made, the Indian Copyright Act’s mandate under Section 61(1) is applicable; the suit’s capacity to be maintained is fatally compromised if the copyright owner does not implement their rights.

[2] skechers Usa Inc & ors v. pure play sports[14]

The footwear options offered by the Plaintiffs in Skechers Usa Inc & Ors v. Pure Play Sports include the ‘SKECHERS GOwalk footwear’ range, which was introduced and launched in 2011. A broad range of consumers are drawn to the plaintiffs’ product because it strikes a mix between comfort, style, value, and quality. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendant had made and marketed shoes that were an exact replica of the shoes they had designed, manufactured, and sold under the GOwalk 3 series. Ultimately, an ad interim injunction was granted to the petitioners by the Delhi High Court.


Sports have grown to be a multibillion dollar global sector that brings in money for infrastructure, employs millions of people worldwide, and provides entertainment for countless more. We examine the ways in which sports firms employ patents and designs to encourage the creation of new sports technologies, gear, training aids, and materials in an effort to enhance athletic performance and attract global audience interest.

the best ways to use trademarks and brands to increase sales through merchandising, sponsorship, and licensing deals. These profits protect the value and integrity of these amazing events while offsetting the cost of putting on world-class events like the Olympic Games and World Cup series.
We look at the ways in which television and other media, which put sports fans even closer to the action, depend on broadcasting rights. Fundamentally, IP incentives and safeguards enable businesses and people to thrive in their pursuit of brand building and innovation.

A brand gets strengthened by the creation of new technologies, and a brand that is already strong gets strengthened by the creation of new products and technologies. A sport’s rise to popularity also spurs the growth of associated businesses and technological advancements. Consider wearable fitness trackers, which have given rise to a completely new app development subindustry. Comparably, there is a strong symbiotic relationship between certain athletes, their sports, their teams, the leagues in which they compete, and associated businesses like apparel, sporting goods, and branding.











[2] Vaishali Singh, “The Untapped Emergence of IP Rights and Sports: Faster, Stronger and Higher’ (2019) PL (IPR) July 91 accessed 19 may 2024

[3] The Role of Intellectual Property Rights in Sports,, accessed on 20 April 2024

[4] The Role of Intellectual Property Rights in Sports,, accessed on 20 April 2024

[5] ibid

[6] The Indian Copyright act,1957

[7] Ibid, 1

[8] Trademark Act, 1999

[9] Patent act,1970

[10] Dikshita More, Role of IPR in Sports,, accessed on 20 April, 2024

[11] Dikshita More, Role of IPR in Sports,, accessed on 20 April, 2024

[12] ibid

[13] ESPN star sports vs global broadcast news ltd. and ors, RFA(OS) 25/2008

[14] Skechers Usa Inc & Ors v. Pure Play Sports, 2016, I.A. No.6279/2016 in CS(COMM) 573/2016

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