European law firm Fieldfisher is excited to mark World IP Day 2019 by examining some of the key themes and trends that have characterised the firm's intellectual property (IP) achievements in sport over the past year.
The theme for this year's World IP Day – "Reach for Gold: IP and Sports" – is a pertinent choice given the speed and scale of change the firm has seen at the convergence between its IP and sports expertise.
Fieldfisher's sport clients range from individual athletes to international brands, which we advise from our offices across Europe, as well as in the US and China, assisting on multiple IP-related matters.
Sports industry clients we have provided IP advice to in the last year include:
Leighton Cassidy, partner, IP and technology, protection and enforcement at Fieldfisher, said:
"We are thrilled to celebrate World IP Day 2019 with such a positive theme.
"IP and sport have come much closer together, from a legal perspective, over the last few years and Fieldfisher has responded by significantly developing its expertise in areas where the two disciplines meet.
"While every client is unique, many of the IP issues they face and goals they set for themselves are shared among the wider business community – something which helps us to anticipate challenges and deliver the best possible legal and commercial advice for our sports clients."
Below are five of the key themes Fieldfisher sees emerging at the intersection between IP and sport:
Fieldfisher is a proud partner in the Sport Tech Hub, the London Sport-backed tech incubator, which seeks to find and develop a new generation of start-ups committed to creating happier, healthier and more active people in London, the UK and around the world.
Sports technology is seeing the coalescence of some of the most exciting technological developments, from artificial intelligence (AI) to virtual reality (VR).
Launched in 2017, the Sport Tech Hub is currently working with its second cohort of companies, with Fieldfisher providing both mentoring and legal support – including IP advice – to these ambitious young businesses.
The success of such incubator programmes and increasing investment interest in the space is likely to generate an explosion of game-changing sports technologies across the world.
The rise of e-sports
Many of the clients we work with are predicting a significant shift by established sports brands into e-sports over the next two-to-three years.
Sports brand licensing agencies in particular are already observing this trend and are bolstering their own technical, creative and legal capacities to ensure they are ready for this change.
This is effectively creating a whole new marketplace for branding, entertainment and merchandising with inherent risks and opportunities – particularly around ownership issues and user-generated content in the e-sports arena.
The number of collaborations between sports and non-sporting brands continues to increase.
Using sports teams and stars to promote consumer brands is not a new development, but the number and variety of sports signing agreements with big name fashion, food and other product categories is growing strongly.
In the UK, given the recent success of British teams on the world stage, it is unsurprising that brands want to be associated with these positive stories – in everything from netball to the Paralympics.
Tackling social issues through sport
As the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) puts it, "the universal values sports encompass – excellence, respect and fair play – power their global appeal".
As well as encouraging participation and improving health and wellbeing, sport is also being used to help tackle other social issues such as youth unemployment and gang culture.
Organisations set up to deliver these services – typically on a not-for-profit or charitable basis – are keen to crystallise their concepts and approaches by protecting their trade mark and other IP rights.
Once protected, these organisations can use their IP to help drive positive change.
Faster, stronger, better
Like sports themselves, competition between equipment manufacturers is incredibly fierce.
There is huge pressure on sports brands to continually improve their products to enhance the performance of professional athletes and amateur sports people alike.
Established sports brands are also being put through their paces by ambitious start-ups, many of which are spun out of universities and colleges, where the brightest minds have come together to create incredible new technologies and materials for sports equipment.
Consequently, there is high and rapidly growing demand to protect the IP behind these innovations and to use IP law to help support their marketing efforts.
Fieldfisher is a European law firm with market leading practices in many of the world's most dynamic sectors. We are an exciting, forward-thinking organisation with a particular focus on energy & natural resources, technology, finance & financial services, life sciences and media.
Our network has more than 1,450 people working across 24 offices providing highly commercial advice based on an in-depth understanding of our clients' needs.
We operate across our offices in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Beijing, Belfast, Birmingham, Bologna, Brussels, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Guangzhou, Hamburg, London, Luxembourg, Madrid, Manchester, Milan, Munich, Paris, Rome, Shanghai, Turin, Venice and Silicon Valley.
Fieldfisher was named as a top 20 firm by the FT Innovative Lawyers Awards 2018.
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