Intellectual property in sports


THE World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), a specialised agency of the United Nations mandated to globally manage intellectual property, defines intellectual property as legal rights which result from intellectual activity in the industrial, scientific, literary and artistic fields.
Broadly speaking, there are two categories of intellectual property: industrial property and copyright and related rights.
Industrial property includes patents for inventions, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications. Copyright covers literary works (such as novels, poems and plays), films, music, artistic works. Intellectual property rights are like any other property right.
They allow creators, or owners, of patents, trademarks or copyrighted works to benefit from their own work or investment in a creation.
Generally speaking, intellectual property law aims at safeguarding creators and other producers of intellectual goods and services by granting them certain time-limited rights to control.
Intellectual property rights play a key role in the long-term viability and success of the sports industry in Zambia.
Sport, which was once considered as a recreational activity, has today become a commercial activity generating huge profits.
Different kinds of IP stimulate the sports sector in Zambia in different ways. Let’s then examine how three important categories of intellectual property rights can be used to generate value and stimulate the sports sector in Zambia.
A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention – a product or process that provides a new way of doing something, or that offers a new technical solution to a problem.
Sports is a sector that directly uses and benefits from the patent system. For example, sporting equipment for treatment of different football-related injuries is continuously evolving. New technologies, on the other hand, help athletes jump higher, swim faster, cycle longer, and hit a ball harder and farther. Safety also improves with technologies that lessen impact and stress on athletes’ bodies. Technologies like the video assistant referee (VAR) are a direct result of a patent system that offers proper incentives for innovation and a stable platform to disseminate inventions and make them widely available in the marketplace.
Zambian innovators have the option of taking advantage of opportunities in this area by manufacturing products in the field of energy drinks and supplements designed to help athletes perform better and get rehydrated faster.
A search at the Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA), the national competent authority for management of industrial property, found fewer patents registered in relation to other member states of the African Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO).
A trademark is a distinctive sign that identifies certain goods or services produced or provided by an individual or a company. In a layman’s language, this is a ‘budge’ that distinguishes one product like a jersey of Nkana Football Club (aba red) from that of Power Dynamos (aba yellow), or let’s say Green Eagles (Tonka Twende). Branding in football, to be specific, plays an essential role in creating value, interest, and vitality. It drives consumer loyalty and confidence in the quality and features of sporting goods – think of how loyal supporters of ‘Mighty’ Mufulira Wanderers are.
It also generates allegiance to sports teams and sportswear styles. Branding has also become an essential asset and revenue producer for other sporting disciplines like futsal and volleyball. Institutions like the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) should engage key stakeholders to educate players especially on how they can generate personal income outside their routine salaries at their clubs through image rights and branding.
The Copyright and Performance Rights Act (CPRA) Chapter 406 of the laws of Zambia grants authors, artists and other creators protection for their literary and artistic creations, generally referred to as “works”.
A closely associated field is “related rights” or rights related to copyright that encompass rights similar or identical to those of copyright, although sometimes more limited and of shorter duration.
Copyright plays a critical role in maintaining the vitality of sports, keeping fans interested and inspired, and enhancing value. The promotion and marketing of championships and sporting events by MultiChoice and the Chess Federation of Zambia, the artistic designs of the logos of sports teams and sports competitions, the literature by commentators like Matimba Nkonje, Quintin Dube and Innocent Kalaluka contained in match-day programmes sold to fans and supporters, the merchandise, and the software of computers and online games are all copyrightable subject matter.
Revenues from broadcasting and media rights can be the main source of funds for sports organisations to build stadiums, host sporting events, and carry out community outreach to maintain high levels of interest.
Revenues from sports events are generally divided into four distinct categories: media rights (including subscription fees), advertising, commercial sponsorship, and merchandise. As we celebrate the World Intellectual Property Day under the theme ‘Reach for gold – IP and sports’, let’s continue in our search for gold and remember the words of the Secretary General of the United Nations at the UN General Assembly in 2016: “Sport has become a world language, a common denominator that breaks down all the walls, all the barriers. It is a worldwide industry whose practices can have widespread impact. Most of all, it is a powerful tool for progress and for development.”
The author is an academician.

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