Protection of intellectual property in sports tech can be a game-changer | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 26, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 26, 2019


Protection of intellectual property in sports tech can be a game-changer

The countdown for the Cricket World Cup 2019 has begun. Very few of us know the amount of planning required for such an event. To give an idea of the size of the operation, Steve Elworthy, MD of the 2019 World Cup, while talking to SportsPro, pointed to the 350 training sessions planned for the competing squads at match day venues and out grounds.

The International Cricket Council is responsible for the sponsorship sales and digital strategy. Media giant Star holds its broadcasting right. For the England and Wales Cricket Board, hosting the tournament means creating national excitement and converting it into generational benefits using the revenue created. As spectators, if we close our eyes and think about what the tournament is going to be like, perhaps we won’t imagine the one-billion-pound worth of TV deal that has been signed for the live coverage to more than one billion fans. A technology and data strategy is in place to learn about the sell-out English crowd, groundsmen are talking about drop-in pitch technology, and the soft drink giant Coca-Cola has agreed to refresh the crowd with their non-alcoholic beverage—among many other deals that have been signed.

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In the past, people had to rush to stadiums to get tickets to watch live matches. If they didn’t get those elusive tickets, they had to try to get a glimpse from the rooftop of some nearby building. But today, with advances in technology, one can just watch the World Cup on television. Technology is now used in a variety of ways in cricket matches, where so much rests on split-second, game-changing moments. Many breakthrough technologies like Spidercam, Hot Spot, Snick-o-Meter, Hawk-Eye, Light Meter, Stump Camera, Speed Gun, etc. are assembled for tracking individual performances. The use of robot as umpires has also been proposed to dismiss controversies. All these technologies and businesses that enhance the game of cricket are subjects of intellectual property.

Wondering why I am talking about cricket? Because this year’s World Intellectual Property Day campaign—Reach for Gold: IP and Sports—takes a closer look inside the world of sports. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) celebrates World Intellectual Property Day on April 26 every year across the globe to create awareness on the role of intellectual property to encourage innovation and creativity that drives human progress. This year, on the eve of the Cricket World Cup, WIPO will delve into the world of sports and explore how intellectual property rights, including plant variety protection for turf on sports pitches, support the global sports ecosystem. It will celebrate the sporting heroes and innovators behind the scenes to boost sports’ performance and its global appeal.

Technology has always had a role to play in the sporting arena. Innovative technologies including artificial intelligence—typically protected by patents or trade secrets—are taking sports to new heights. The use of smart sports equipment is now widespread, making sports safer. Sporting events and sponsorship deals are underpinned by trademark rights. The strategic use of intellectual property rights in the world of sports has significant potential to support economic development in a variety of ways. Sports has become a multi-billion-dollar global industry. Business relationships built on intellectual property rights help to secure the economic value of sports. Sports businesses use patents and designs to foster the development of new sports technologies, materials, training and improve athletic performance as well as engage with fans worldwide. Trademarks and branding maximise commercial revenue from sponsorship, merchandising and licensing agreements.

A few frequently asked questions may be answered here to create awareness on intellectual property. What is intellectual property? According to WIPO, intellectual property refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works and symbols, names and images used in commerce. Intellectual property is divided into two categories: Industrial Property includes patents for novel inventions with industrial applicability, distinctive trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications for origin, qualities or reputation. Copyright covers literary works such as novels, poems, plays, films, music, and artistic works. What are intellectual property rights? 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. Why promote and protect intellectual property? An effective intellectual property system can foster economic development, spur the creation of new jobs and industries, promote foreign investment, innovation and creativity and professional marketing of a product or service, and enhance the quality of life. There is a positive correlation between economic development and intellectual property rights protection.

World Intellectual Property Day is a great opportunity to get people interested in such issues. And Bangladesh definitely needs to make certain decisions and pledges to prosper in its sporting sector. World Intellectual Property Day is observed here like everywhere else in the world. Patent and Copyright Offices of Bangladesh and others celebrate the day by organising national symposiums. The system of intellectual property, however, is not beyond criticism. For example, Pharmaceutical and Genetic Test patents prevent alternative life-saving drugs from entering the market. Thus maintaining high prices for medication and hindering public access to get a second opinion about the accuracy of the results of such patented tests. According to Lex Machina, which keeps a database on intellectual property disagreements in the US, the number of complaints lodged has been increasing immensely every year. Hopefully, WIPO will look into these issues for the sake of progress.


Farid Ahmad is an Assistant Professor and Proponent of TTO Project, Institute of Appropriate Technology, BUET.


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