Gone are those days where sports were played as a result of passion and recreation. No one considered sports as a profession or a career. Today, it has become a huge business opportunity where people can mint money. The number of people who make a life out of sport has increased manifold in recent times. This article brings out how Intellectual Property and the business of sports go hand and glove.

Forming a team is the major component in most sports and teams are usually recognized by a specific name. It doesn’t stop with a team name. Each team has an identification mark such as a logo and tag lines or catchphrases for attracting the viewers at large. Apart from forming a team the players are roped in for endorsements and advertisements. The sports association of such teams may also enter into activities such as sponsorships, merchandising, licensing etc… The protection of team’s name, logo, taglines official merchandises become essential and this is where Intellectual Property comes into play. That said, for the protection of these proprietary aspects, there is no single law but various laws because Intellectual Property, is an umbrella term referring to creations of the mind or intellect. The following are the Intellectual Property rights relating to sports:


Trademark is a common Intellectual Property right which is usually related to sports. “Trademark” as per the law means a mark capable of being represented graphically and which is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others and may include shape of goods, their packaging and combination of colours. In the field of sports, the team’s name, logo and slogans or taglines may be trademarked, thereby protecting the same. Trade dress can be obtained for a team’s jersey which is similar to a trademark.

As always, to claim protection under the Trademarks Act, 1999, the person who seeks protection should register the trademark.  Since there exists various classes of goods and services, the proprietor should identify the appropriate class for registering the mark. For instance, the Chennai Super Kings, though they are a cricket team, also sell caps and shirts, which fall under the category of clothing. So it has to be registered under Class 25 of the Act. A person who registers under the Trademarks act can have his product protected only within India. But if a person ever wishes to register his trademark internationally, he can make an application under the Madrid Protocol. This is a system which offers the trademark owner the possibility to protect his trademark internationally. Just like any other trademark infringement, both civil and criminal remedies are available if the trademark is registered under the Trademarks Act. If otherwise, the remedy of passing off is available.


Any literary, musical, artistic, dramatic work, sound recordings or cinematography can be protected by the Copyright Act, thereby protecting the expression of ideas. By registering his copyright under the Act, the Owner is allowed to reproduce the work, make copies of it or sell the same, license or assign it to any one he wishes. As far as the business of sports is concerned, copyright can be claimed for the artistic work which subsists in the form of logos, the literary work which subsists in the form of promotional material (taglines or catchphrases), so on and so forth. Copyrights in India need not be compulsorily registered. There exists no rule to that effect. However, if a person wishes to claim remedies in case of infringement, the same has to be registered under the Act. If and when a copyright is infringed, the owner has both civil and criminal remedies available to him. Civil remedies include injunction, damages, cost and accounts. The Copyright Act, 1957 also prescribes criminal remedies in the form of imprisonment up to 3years and fine up to a sum of Rs. 2,00,000. (S. 63)


A patent is a grant provided by the Government to the inventor for a specified period of time during which the inventor exclusively enjoys the right to sell or use the invention in any way he prefers. A patent can be claimed for any invention which is new, innovative and is capable of industrial application. Patents are granted not only for a product but also for the process of such product. In the business of sports, patent is sought for any specific method used by the player. There are many methods including but not limited to pitching a golf ball, delivering a cricket ball and shooting a basketball. These methods are patented because of the existing competition which provides an advantage to the player who invented it.

A patent has to be compulsorily registered as per the Patent Act, 1970. Patent rights are generally granted for a period of 20 years after which the same can be renewed. Just like trademarks and copyrights, any patent holder whose right is infringed can claim civil or criminal remedies as prescribed under the Act.


Personality rights are generally available to a famed personality since more often their names are exploited. It is a right wherein a person gets to protect the unauthorized use of his/her name or image without prior consent. As per the Indian Trademark Act, a person can register trademark over his/her name. One such example would be Sachin Tendulkar. The Delhi High Court in ICC Development (International) Ltd v. Arvee Enterprises and Anr, has rightly held that the right of publicity vests in an individual and he alone is entitled to profit from it.

Apart from these, the business of sports also involves licensing, domain names, broadcasting rights etc. Sports club off late merchandises shirts, curios, mugs and toys which are very attractive and monetize them by entering into licensing agreements with the vendors. A standard merchandising license agreement is essential while licensing creative works. With the increasing growth of commercial activities, domain names have come to dominate the commercial arena. So much to the extent that most of them have a domain in their own name, the Chennai Super Kings for instance. There is no separate law to protect domain names. So protecting one’s own domain is a tedious task. However, it can be protected under the Trademarks Act.  Broadcasting rights are those rights which lie with the broadcasting company and which allows them to broadcast and re-broadcast a sports match which are recognized by the Copyright Act, 1957.

There were days when sports were merely viewed as an entertainment; for one’s own distraction from the monotonous day-today life. However, the present day scenario of sports has faced many changes. These changes are not only because of the ratio of people who participate but also because of the increased viewer-ship. Since sports clubs and associations spend a huge amount of money on sporting events, Intellectual Property protection is needed to safeguard their interest for an effective management. It must be your weekly dose of the game but for the people who run the show, it is a multi billion business, and protecting this business is the strong arm of Intellectual Property.

This article has been authored by Jayashri Suresh, an IP Law practitioner.