The Football World Cup: An IP Spectacle
A four-year spectacle, i.e., the FIFA World Cup 2022, which captures the imagination of almost 5 billion people worldwide, kicked off on November 20, 2022. No sport is more globally recognised and played than football, or soccer, as it is known in some parts of the world. Their grandest stage captures the imagination of many a country, with matches being watched with loyal fervour and new demi gods arising out of the tournament whose signing fees for their respective clubs could bankroll a country. But this is the FIFA World Cup at its best.
The tournament does bring about numerous challenges, and one such challenge is the protection of Intellectual Property rights. The tournament has close to 5 billion eyeballs on it; therefore, every brand looks to have a presence due to the tremendous commercial value it provides. FIFA has official partners for broadcasting, hospitality, ticketing, etc., who are recognised as official FIFA rights holders. These right holders make substantial financial investments, and such investments will only be forthcoming if FIFA provides them with the exclusive use of their brands during the tournament.
To ensure the education and protection of intellectual property rights, FIFA has an entire section on its website dedicated to brand protection: https://www.fifa.com/about-fifa/commercial/fifa-marketing/brand-protection. FIFA includes several terms and conditions as well as guidelines to protect the investment and exclusive rights granted to their partners and other licensees of the tournament, which include (among others) monitoring and action plans on counterfeit merchandise, ambush marketing campaigns, and social media activity. The rights are actively enforced to prevent misuse and to protect the prestige and value of such a partnership.
The Intellectual Property Guidelines provided by FIFA is an extensive document dealing with numerous aspects of protection. It states that only the official FIFA rights holders can use the official intellectual property rights for commercial purposes. Some of the notable official intellectual property items include the following:
With everyone wanting to celebrate the tournament, there is always a risk of unwanted association with the official intellectual property that may occur. However, the FIFA guidelines show that businesses and the public can use generic football or country-related images and terminology that do not include the official FIFA intellectual property.
Additionally, there is also the added problem of ambush marketing. It is a prohibited marketing activity undertaken by brands to unscrupulously take advantage of the event without the authorisation of FIFA. Ambush marketing previously raised its head during the World Cup in Russia. FIFA has sought to prevent such ambush marketing to ensure that the official sponsors are given as much protection as possible.
FIFA must be lauded for its efforts to create and enforce intellectual property for a sporting spectacle such as the World Cup, and other sporting event organisers must emulate the measures taken by FIFA to ensure the valuable rights of the sponsors are protected.
FIFA includes several terms and conditions as well as guidelines to protect the investment and exclusive rights granted to their partners and other licensees of the tournament, which include (among others) monitoring and action plans on counterfeit merchandise, ambush marketing campaigns, and social media activity. The rights are actively enforced to prevent misuse and to protect the prestige and value of such a partnership.