While 32 of the world’s best national teams prepared to compete for soccer’s top prize, Qatar’s preparations for the event’s success included a new law on Intellectual Property for FIFA, its sponsors, and its affiliates. On September 8, 2021, Qatar issued FIFA IP Law No. 11 of 2021 for the Protection of Trademarks, Copyrights and Related Rights.
FIFA had developed a range of brand assets like logos, words, titles, symbols, and other identifiers for the tournament as official Intellectual Property. The legislation offered protection to these assets in Qatar and other territories around the world under copyright, trademark and/or other forms of IP as well as other laws such as unfair competition, passing off, etc. Under Qatar’s IP law, FIFA’s IP was granted recognition and protection as “well-known” trademarks without having to submit the necessary statements under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883), to which Qatar is a signatory.
The law simplified FIFA’s IP registration with the IP Rights Protection Department (“Department”) at the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. It exempted FIFA from submitting a statement as required by Article 45 of Law No. 7 of 2022 on the Protection of Copyright and Related Rights. Ipso facto, FIFA did not have to provide material on the author’s name, the subject matter of a work or related rights, a written statement by authors of the ownership of a work or any other related rights. The law also exempted FIFA from having to pay registration fees to register its trademarks, works, audio recordings, performer’s rights, and radio broadcasts.
The Department was further tasked with accelerating the registration of FIFA’s IP and notifying FIFA of any third-party’s application for a similar or identical trademark, which may lead to public confusion. The department must also inform FIFA of its rejection of such third-party applications within ten days of its decision.
FIFA holds commercial rights such as broadcasting, ticketing, hospitality, advertising, and other promotional rights. It grants these rights to various entities across multiple industries. By granting such rights, key financial contributions are made that ensure further development of the game. To secure such contributions, rights holders require exclusivity for the use of the Official Marks and other Commercial Rights. The exclusivity of such rights attracts valuable contributions that bolster funding for the tournament. As a result, safeguarding FIFA’s commercial rights against unauthorised use of such marks was critical.
By easing the process for FIFA to seek protection for these rights, Qatar projected itself as the ideal location to play host to the event. Non-affiliated entities and individuals were prevented from misusing FIFA’s rights and the laws, such as the one enacted by Qatar, became vital in not only protecting trademark rights but by becoming the bastion for securing key investments for the country.
Impact and relevance
In hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022, Qatar was able to generate a slew of major economic opportunities through investments and partnerships for business growth. With the revenue generated from sports, Qatar now has a suite of world-class sporting venues and amenities. Recently, Qatar made headlines for its stadium for FIFA being built entirely from shipping containers, which is evidence of the accelerated development of better sports infrastructure to be more sustainable and innovative.
Qatar has consistently used the IP system to stimulate and encourage innovation, creativity, and business growth in the sports industry. It had enacted Law No. (27) to protect trademarks, works and related rights for the Asian Games of 2006, which created a favourable framework for investment and business in the sports sector. This prevented business activities from creating undue commercial associations with the tournament by subjecting them to strict legal measures.
These laws dictated how print and digital media reported about the event and how fans could use official IP without receiving commercial benefits. It determined how social media can allow retweeting or hashtags to share official content. Furthermore, it permitted blogs, websites, and businesses to use such IP without any commercial or advertising intent, as well as without establishing any unauthorised association with the event.
Most of all, merchandising for the tournament and use of official IP for the same are within the exclusive chokehold of the governing body, and IP laws prevent fake merchandise, thereby protecting the revenue of the tournament and exclusive rights holders.
By lending IP rights to the sporting business, the industry sees growth and finances high-profile events that aid in the promotion of sports worldwide. While Patents encourage technological advances resulting in better sporting equipment, trademark, brands, and designs aid in the lucrative aspect of events, teams, and gear by having a distinct identity. With the FIFA World Cup being one of the most watched sporting events on the planet, copyright- related rights help bring in revenue for broadcasting the event and bringing thousands of eyes to the sport. Each aspect of IP innovation pushes the envelope in redefining sporting experiences for athletes and audiences around the world.
This article as been written by Himanshu Ranjan during his internship with MikeLegal