SPORTS-IPR-INDIA

The Sports Industry has always been an amalgamation of entertainment, games, culture and business. It has become an essential social activity. It has become so popular with the support of the people who are associated with it due to their regional or national allegiance or other interests. The Sports Industry has an influential impact on the whole world and its economy, it has helped in creating employment, investment in public infrastructure, mobilisation of resources and marketability of sports products. It has led to the development and bulk usage of sports products and has made people involved in the sports business a marketable commodity. It is essential now for teams to have their strong identities that fans identify with, such as the team mascots, colours and theme songs. These teams have their official jerseys and logos. Various football clubs like Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona etc. are best examples of IP Brand Capitalisation and are marketed worth millions of Dollars. Sepp Blatter, the ex-president of FIFA has aptly remarked that “football is not only a game but also a product”.
All of this is regulated and restricted by the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). Intellectual Property (IP) lies at the heart of the huge commercial opportunities offered by the arena of sports. Sports Industry can easily be exploited commercially and to protect it from the exploitation the IP rights are used. IPRs are valuable resources that are used marketing tactic for the branding of games and related events, teams, sports club, celebrity status etc. All these marketing techniques are mainly applied in creation, popularisation and sustenance of disparate logos, marks and personalities. IPRs are acquired by parties through various means and from the legal perspective, the IPR in the form of Copyrights, trademarks, industrial designs, personality rights, advertising rights, licensing and franchising opportunities have acquired immense importance for protection, commercialization and exploitation of commercial aspects of sports, sports events and sportsmen. The majority of the commercial rights that arise in sports fall within the ambit of IPR laws. In India, IPR laws are governed by the Patents Act, 1970, Copyrights Act, 1957, Trademarks Act, 1999 and the Designs Act.
It has become a market where the use of these IPRs can be assigned to another party for the use in relation to certain articles in certain territories. In accordance with some boilerplate clauses in the Act, the other party is required to acknowledge the owner of the IPR and use the disclaimer statement highlighting that the products are not being endorsed by a particular athlete or league. Money is made in sports by selling broadcasting rights to companies. In the Indian Premier League, the right to broadcast all the matches on an exclusive basis has been sold to the consortium of companies. No wonder why BCCI is the richest cricketing body in the world. These Broadcasters then acquires the broadcasting reproduction and venue fixing rights. The broadcaster also acquires the licence to use trademark logos of various teams and sponsors. Besides, the official broadcaster also acquires a copyright in his recordings for commercial use, subject to certain constitutional limitations. But the point to note is that it is not as clear or transparent as it seems, it has been plagued by the issue of ‘Ambush Marketing’.
Locke discussed the relationship between the Author, Work and the Public. He states that by using the labour of one’s body, with the work of his hand added to something already present in nature would become his own property. The whole concept of IPR is based on the protection of ideas. Many intellectuals and specialists in this field believe that the ‘sports move’ or ‘signature move’ used during any sports or game is copyrightable. These signatures or sports move gives the player an additional advantage or competitive edge over the others which may be influential in winning the game. The question is that if these moves include labour, so why shouldn’t it be protected. MS Dhoni made his own cricket shot “the Helicopter Shot”, even Dilshan made his own cricket shot “Pallu scoop”. By using Hegel’s Personality Theory, the “Signature move” would be considered as an extension of himself and so his consent is required for copying or reproducing the move and all of these moves has been made in their own way or by their own style, therefore it stands as being “original.” It does not come under the section 2(y) of Copyrights Act 1957, whose subject matter is ‘work’. It could come under section 38 of the Copyrights Act which talks about “Performer’s Right.” Section 2(q) defines ‘performance’ as any visual and acoustic made live by one or more performers. The same act defines ‘performer’ in section 2(qq) as any person who makes any performance. Thus it fulfils the criteria of coming under the category ‘sports’. Section 38 can be used as the playing game is related to the ‘idea’ and a particular shot or ‘move’ is a form of expression. But still the applicability of this is uncertain and even Indian Judiciary has not shed any light on this issue.

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