Role of IPR in Sports Laws


This article is written by Dhyey Vyas, a student at Karnavati University, Gandhinagar. This article includes various aspects of IPR and how they are used in sports laws.

Intellectual Property Rights have been embraced by many businesses around the world to secure ownership. When an idea is born of labour and toil, it is inextricably linked to the need for its security. Individuals are rewarded for new inventions because they have intellectual property rights. The representation of an idea, not the idea itself, is protected by intellectual property rights.[1]

In the sports law world, the spectrum of Intellectual Property Rights is enormous. Almost every aspect of the sports law industry is protected by intellectual property rights. They begin with patents, which promote technical advancements that lead to improved sporting equipment.

The distinct identification of events, teams, and their gear is reinforced by logos and designs. Copyright-related rights provide the necessary funds for broadcasters to invest in the expensive endeavor of broadcasting sporting events to fans around the world.

A sports shoe, for example, may be covered by a number of IP rights, including Patents protect the inventions used to create the shoe, while designs protect the shoe’s “look.” Copyright covers all artwork and audio-visual works used to publicize the shoe.

Trademarks differentiate the shoe from similar items and preserve the “reputation” and “name” of the shoe. In addition, IP Rights are linked to a variety of other facets of the sports industry, including event promotions, players, sponsorship arrangements, broadcasting, and merchandising.

The commercialization of sports is one of the most positive fields that has benefited individuals while also contributing to the country’s economic development. Today, intellectual property rights are used as marketing tools to brand games and related activities, sports clubs, teams, and celebrity status, all of which need protection to avoid any future complications.

While IP security has many advantages in the sports law industry, it also has significant drawbacks. It is best understood through a case study of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), where the Olympic symbol is covered under the Nairobi Treaty on the Protection of the Olympic Symbol, which adheres to specific guidelines regulating the symbol’s use, which has an effect on other sports laws.

Many businesses find it difficult to use the Olympic emblem as part of their marketing campaign due to the strict guidelines. These businesses then use “ambush marketing.” Ambush marketing refers to when a business wants to connect itself to a big event without actually sponsoring it. This suggests that the brand or organization avoids paying fees when producing commercial revenue.

Nike, for example, pulled off a highly effective feat of ambush marketing with its golden shoes that Michael Jordan wore when he competed and won the gold in the 400-meter track event at the 1996 Summer Olympics. The Olympics Committee chastised Nike for the publicity ploy, and the event prompted the IOC to enforce stringent rules making it incredibly difficult for non-sponsoring brands to participate.

In the sports industry, a chain of title is essential in sports law agreements that include the legal release of a sportsman’s talent, allowing their work, photographs, and personality rights, among other things, to be used for profit by others. Various teams have been established in sports leagues such as the Indian Premier League (IPL), Hockey India League, Indian Badminton League, Pro-Kabaddi, and Indian Super League.

IP conflicts occur as a result of multiple acts of infringement or illegal use of IP. Infringement of trademarks, brand infringement, misbranding, misuse in bad faith, and using a sports personality’s name without permission or payment of a licensing fee or royalty are some of the legal problems that may occur in the sports industry as a result of the expanded commercial exploration of IPR in sports law.

Infringement of proprietary products, sporting equipment, artwork in trademarks, broadcasting without a license, piracy of audio-visual recordings, infringement in advertising content, usage of copyrighted software without a license or royalty; infringement of design, use of design without a license, use of design for the promotion of other items. These issues can result in reputational harm, unfair trade practices, unfair competition, and commercial disputes, all of which can result in significant commercial losses, defeating the primary goal of studying the commercial aspects of the sports industry.[2]

The government must formulate strict laws for the regulation of IP rights in sports law as soon as possible. In order to preserve the value of sports law and sporting assets while also effectively protecting intellectual property, owners of intellectual properties in the field of sports law should be aware of the importance of IP and protect it by registering, acquiring proper licenses, and making contracts.

To protect all stakeholders and their financial interests, the importance of valid contractual agreements must be established, and contracts must be placed in place to protect all types of intellectual property generated in sporting activities, teams, individual players, and so on.


The core aspect behind an Intellectual Property right is to allow an individual or legal entity to protect their intellectual property for a defined period of time. The sportsmen, the team, the society/club associated with the sports practice, or the promoters of the sports activities all put in a lot of hard work and effort in the field of sports law.

Sports is no longer just a profession or a hobby for athletes or sports organizations; it is now seen as a major business opportunity. When a sports team is formed, it is given a name that is widely known. Various imaginative and inventive logos and fancy taglines are created for the purpose of identification.

Sportsmen engage in endorsements and advertising off the field, while sports associations engage in branding, licensing, merchandising, sponsorship, and other related practices. When all of these artistic elements have been conceived and commercialized, they must be safeguarded.

For example, intangible assets such as team names like Kolkata Knight Riders and Manchester United, as well as events like the IPL, Olympics, and the US Open, are essential components for which legal security is needed to prevent third-party infringements. Licensing and sponsorships, media rights, and a variety of other critical revenue sources, on the other hand.

There is no single law that preserves all of this sensitive information and addresses all of the problems that occur as a result of it. To protect the economic interests of those interested in sports, a number of regulations have been enacted. Intellectual property rules make up a large portion of these laws and are often used to address a variety of legal issues.[3]

also visit: M.C Mehta vs. Union of India- Oleum Gas Leak case


The Copyrights Act of 1957 contains many clauses that provide for the preservation of different aspects of sporting activities, such as artwork associated with the logo, emblem, trademark, and so on. Since the Copyright Act does not require the author’s work to be registered, it is relatively simple for the artwork to be covered as a copyrighted work under the law.[4]

The Copyright Act provides legal remedies for infringement of an author’s artwork under Section 55[5] of the Act, which includes Permanent, Temporary, Interlocutory, and Mareva Injunctions, Anton Pillar Orders, Reports of Income or Damages, and Litigation Costs. It also provides for statutory remedies under Section 63 of the Act, which states that imprisonment for a cognizable offense can result in the imposition of a fine.


In the sports industry, trademarks are extremely important. When the sports law industry first started branding, it included elements like a logo, a mark, taglines, captions, slogans, and so on, all of which contributed to the development of brand value in apparel, sports clubs, athletes, and teams. The brand image of a team name, sports clubs, players, and merchandise creates a degree of identification with the general public (especially fans), which helps any team, player, or other entity gain popularity.

The Trademarks Act of 1999, Section 135[6], includes civil and criminal remedies for trademark infringement and handing off. The Trademark Act, like the Copyrights Act, does not require the registration of a brand, but someone who does not register their brand can still exercise their rights under the law. Infringing on a trademark or brand is a punishable crime, and the infringer may face criminal charges.[7]

Read- Do we understand copyright protection in the digital era?


There is no special law in India to safeguard trade secrets, and in the sports industry, there is always the possibility of any information that must be kept confidential. Manufacturing or industrial secrets, recipe, technique, procedure, design, instrument, pattern, commercial system, or collection of knowledge are all examples of trade secrets.[8]

Do read- Rectification of Trademark in India

Licensing and Franchising in Sports law Industry

Licensing and franchising play an important role in raising income from sports events, when the licensee or franchisee obtains the right to market exclusive merchandise of the IP owner, which is linked to exclusive teams, clubs, and so on, with the goal of building goodwill or prestige for the brand name. [9]

The benefit may be made in a number of forms, including licensing or franchising IP rights vested in online gaming, restaurant and bar services, broadcasting rights, including television rights, and TV/DTH services. Ignorance is a paradise for those who wish to benefit from the privileges of others’ intellectual property rights simply by denying their presence.

However, ignorance is a curse for IP owners who neglect to educate the public and even fail to notify the party who is abusing or trying to abuse their IP rights without paying a royalty. The Brand and Content Protection Guidelines[10], which spell out the dos and don’ts, would be a crucial tool for all IP owners in the sporting industry. Companies that sponsor sporting events usually spend a large sum of money on the organization and promotion of the sporting arena.

As a result, they should have certain comprehensive brand and content protection guidelines, which must be posted on their official websites and widely circulated in order to avoid misbranding and abuse of intellectual property rights.

Also read- Consent in Criminal Law – Latest 2021


IP rights necessitate that they are secured in every sporting event, such as the one described above. As a result, in order to secure these IP rights, a proper legal contractual arrangement must be drafted that covers all types of intellectual property. The sports industry will make money in a variety of ways. In addition, the Indian government must encourage and promote its sport and culture in order to get them up to international standards.

Do read- Impact of Copyright Laws on Remix Songs



[1] sports law

[2] Kishor Bhatt & Sumeet Handa, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in Digital Environment: An Overview in Indian Digital Environment, International Journal of Digital Library Services (2015).



[5] Section 55 of the Copyright Act, 1957.

[6] Section 135 of the Trademarks Act, 1999.

[7] Intellectual Property and Sports: Tracing the Connections (September 23, 2020, 11:00 AM),


[9] Brand and Content Protection Guidelines,


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