The article 'Role of IPR in Sports' is an extensive study of the IPR in the realm of sports.

The article 'Role of IPR in Sports' is an extensive study of the IPR in the realm of sports. It explores the various forms of intellectual property protection, such as copyright, trademarks, patents, and their application in sports-related activities. It examines the balance between exclusive rights granted by IPR and the public interest in accessing and enjoying sports-related products and experiences.


Being a worldwide phenomenon, intellectual property rights are acknowledged not only in India but also in other nations. By guaranteeing that the owner of the IP rights receives appropriate credit and compensation for his original work or invention through being able to support himself through it, the primary goal of IPR is to promote creativity and innovation and to protect the reputation or goodwill that is associated with a brand. Owners of intellectual property can even forbid others from using or replicating their creations without their consent until those creations enter the public domain.

IP rights are only protected for a finite amount of time; for instance, in India, patents are protected for 20 years after the date of application but copyright is sometimes protected for 60 years plus the lifetime of the creator. Even better, IP owners can sell, licence, or assign their rights. The primary focus of this essay is on the function of intellectual property law in the sports industry.

Intellectual Property Rights & Sports in India

The Intellectual property law's range of applications includes many facets of athletic events, sports brands, etc. Intellectual property rights (IPR) can indeed be granted in various aspects of the sporting world. Beginning with copyrights, which the broadcasters must pay a lot of money for in order to broadcast athletic events so that fans throughout the world can watch the game. The invention of athletic devices will ultimately be a result of the patents that encourage innovation and technological development. The reputation or goodwill of a sporting brand is safeguarded by the trademark.

Finally, Designs safeguard the aesthetic value of sporting goods. For instance, a sports backpack protects numerous intellectual property rights, including the broadcaster's use of audio-visual works to promote the bag is protected by copyright. By separating it from any other goods of a like sort, trademarks safeguard the goodwill connected to the brand of the bag. The appealing design of the bag is protected under design law. Additionally, a patent would safeguard the technological innovation employed to create such a bag.

Copyright of Sports

The Copyright law protects various forms of creative expression, including sports-related content. Photographs and other visual images of sports events, athletes, or sports-related activities can be protected by copyright. The photographers or creators of these images usually hold the copyright and have the exclusive rights to reproduce and distribute their work. Written works about sports, such as books, articles, or blog posts, can be protected by copyright. This includes original descriptions of sports events, analysis, biographies, and other related written content.

Trademark in Sports

The use of trademarks is essential in the sports sector. When the sports sector first started branding, it contained elements like a logo, mark, taglines, captions, and slogans, among others, which led to the development of brand value in merchandise, sports clubs, athletes, and teams, among other things. The perceived worth of a team name, sports clubs, players, and products fosters some level of association with the general public (particularly fans), which ultimately aids in the ascent of any team, player, etc. in terms of popularity.

Here are a few examples of trademark-related aspects in Indian sports:

Indian Premier League (IPL): The IPL, a professional Twenty20 cricket league in India, features teams that are protected by trademarks. Each team, such as Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings, and Kolkata Knight Riders, has its own unique name, logo, and brand elements that are trademarked to prevent unauthorized use by others.

Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI): The BCCI is the national governing body for cricket in India and manages the intellectual property associated with the Indian cricket team. The BCCI owns trademarks for the Indian cricket team's name, logo, and other related assets to safeguard their exclusive use.

All India Football Federation (AIFF): The AIFF, the governing body for football (soccer) in India, protects its intellectual property through trademarks. The AIFF owns trademarks for its logo, the Indian national football team's name, and other official emblems associated with Indian football.

Sports Apparel and Equipment Brands: Various sports apparel and equipment brands, both domestic and international, operate in India and protect their trademarks. For example, brands like Nike, Adidas, Puma, and Reebok have registered trademarks for their logos, brand names, and product designs.

Patent in Sports

The Patent literature can be used to trace the development of sports. Patents show off new technology to meet the problems of sports or perhaps make them more accessible and fascinating for the general public, while players, sportsmen, and teams aim to set records, earn victories, or just have fun.

It is challenging to think about sports without picturing a ball. In the early days of this new sport, efforts were made to manufacture balls that were suitably suited to the idiosyncrasies of basketball. For instance, basketball was initially played with a soccer ball.

Personality Rights in Sports

The right of a person includes the right to publicity and the right to one's image, both of which derive from the individual's right to privacy. These rights regulate how someone's identity or personality rights are used and exploited for profit. A person's name, likeness, and appearance were first exclusively protected under the right of publicity, but the protection now extends considerably further. It now safeguards all characteristics that set a person apart and make him or her distinctive. As a result, both the right to publicity and the right to one's image are crucial components of personality rights.

Domain names in Sports

The Protection of intellectual property rights related to sports also heavily relies on domain names, which Indian courts also consider trademarks. Through the internet, a vast amount of information is shared and events, including online games related to sporting events, are broadcast. This has not only helped create a huge market share for branding and value creation, but it has also provided opportunities for cybersquatters to profit from any confusion that may be solely due to domain names.

The websites have become excellent platforms for advertising, brand development, and fan growth. As the internet is a cost-effective way to reach out to the public and raise 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, etc., in an effort to reach out to the public and develop brand recognition. An unimaginative approach to domain names, however, could undermine the potential benefits that could result from a sporting event. Domain names support the development of a cohesive brand image, portability, and SEO.

Broadcasting Rights in Sports

The connection between sports and television and other media is supported by copyright and related rights, notably, those pertaining to broadcasting organisations. Large sums of money are paid by television and media companies for their sole licence to broadcast major sporting events live.

The sale of broadcasting and media rights has become the primary source of income for the majority of sports organisations, providing the money required to support major sporting events, renovate stadiums, and advance grassroots sports. The broadcasters are able to invest in the pricey administrative and technological infrastructure necessary to broadcast sporting events to millions of fans across the world thanks to the royalties they receive from selling their exclusive material to other media outlets.

Ambush Marketing

Ambush marketing is the practice of a competing business or brand attempting to advertise its goods at an already sponsored event. It is merely a circumstance in which a rival links up with an event unofficially to undermine the sponsors' full exposure. Many corporations, organisations, and brands use this type of marketing technique. Every industry has a significant amount of ambush marketing, which serves to covertly increase brand awareness. It is now essentially regarded as a market strategy in and of itself. Ambush marketing is well known for being incredibly surprising. While a corporation promoting and sponsoring anything would be more concentrated on its main task, other businesses would come up with the most unexpected strategy to ambush the event.

Direct Ambushing is the first sort of ambush marketing that occurs in sports. Simply put, it refers to the unauthorised use of words, phrases, trademarks, graphics, and the like. Without hiding their motives, these brands just go all out and take on the competition or simply steal their visibility. Additionally, there are four different types of direct ambush: self-ambush, coattail ambush, trademark infringement, and predatory ambush.

Predatory Ambushing is a marketing strategy in which a brand undercuts a competing band's sponsorship in an effort to mislead customers about the true sponsor. Coattail Ambushing is the practice of a company utilising a platform created by another brand in order to increase its visibility. A situation known as trademark infringement occurs when a brand purposefully borrows logos, taglines, and other trademarks from another brand to promote itself with the goal of confusing consumers and undermining that company's marketing initiatives.

Case Laws

[1] Espn Star Sports v. Global Broadcast News Ltd. and Ors, RFA(OS) 25/2008

The court observed that whenever a court has to see whether a particular conduct is ‘fair dealing’ or not, the context, the length of the original work borrowed, and the purpose, can never be ignored. The plaintiff cannot be granted the ad-interim injunction sought for. The mandate of Section 61(1) of Indian Copyright Act applies in case of claims for infringement of broadcast reproduction rights; the non-impleadment of the owner of the copyright is fatal to the maintainability of the suit.

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

The Plaintiffs in Skechers Usa Inc & Ors v. Pure Play Sports provide a variety of footwear options, one of which is the 'SKECHERS GOwalk footwear' line, which was introduced and launched in 2011. According to the plaintiffs, their product embodies a balance of quality, value, comfort, and style that appeals to a wide spectrum of buyers. According to the plaintiffs, the defendant had introduced and was marketing footwear that was a perfect copy and lookalike of the footwear that the plaintiffs had created, produced, and marketed under the GOwalk 3 series. In the end, the Delhi High Court awarded the petitioners an ad interim injunction.


Trademark, licencing, franchising, copyright, and other fundamental IPR-related concerns are all brought up by commercial sports. These intellectual property rights necessitate that they be protected at all sporting events, including the one stated above. Therefore, a comprehensive legal contractual agreement must be created to protect all types of intellectual property connected to athletic events, athletes, etc. in order to preserve such IP rights. The sports sector has several different ways to make money. In order to develop Indian sport and culture to international standards, the Indian government must strongly support and promote them.


[1] Ritvik Nigam, Study of Intellectual Property Laws in Sports Industry specifically focusing on Copyright And Trademark, Available Here

[2] Intellectual Property Rights In Sports-Indian Perspective, Available Here

[3] Intellectual Property Rights or IPR in Sports, Available Here

[4] Role of Intellectual Property Rights Law in Sports Sector, Available Here

Important Links

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Vivekanand College of Law, Chembur

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