In a snapshot view of global patenting activity over the past five years in the sports industry, new figures revealed for World Intellectual Property Day 2019 show that US sports giant Nike is the top filer of sports-related international patent applications through WIPO.
Reaching for gold
In total, 2,078 sports-related applications under WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) were published by WIPO in 2018, a 9% increase on figures for 2017 (1,900 PCT applications) and a 41% increase on figures for 2014 (1,470 PCT applications). Since its inception in 2000, every year on April 26, World IP Day highlights, through the lens of a specific theme, how IP rights encourage innovation and creativity. This year’s theme is “Reach for Gold: IP and Sports.” More than 400 grassroots-organized celebrations are planned worldwide for World IP Day 2019, with other events expected in the coming days. WIPO Director General Francis Gurry, in his World IP Day 2019 message, said “This year’s World Intellectual Property Day campaign celebrates the positive role that intellectual property plays in encouraging sports, a wonderful range of pursuits in which human beings have always engaged and which enrich our lives in so many different ways.” Mr Gurry explained, “Intellectual property rights underlie and empower the financial model of all sporting events worldwide. IP rights are at the heart of the global sports ecosystem and all the commercial relationships that make sports happen and that allow us to tune in to sporting action whenever, wherever, and however we want,” he said.
While technology has always played a role in the sports landscape, recent advancements are fueling sports evolution like never before. Wearable tech enables athletes to avoid injury and better monitor and improve their performance. Sports stadiums with huge investments in innovative technologies ensure fans have access to a rich blend of physical and digital experiences that connect them more closely with the on-field action. Cutting-edge technologies, from sophisticated sports prostheses to satellite navigation systems that guide blind athletes, are also enabling athletes living with disabilities to achieve record-breaking performances. “All this is possible because of technological innovations, which are empowered and encouraged by intellectual property,” said Mr. Gurry. He also highlighted strategic use of trademarks can generate significant revenue streams, “Trademarks, which underpin sports branding, are an exceptionally important intellectual property right for teams and athletes to differentiate themselves and stand apart in a highly competitive market. Trademark rights are critical in allowing individual players and teams to gain a monetary reward from, for example, merchandising … and sponsorship deals.”