17 October 2017Copyright

AIPPI 2017: Going for gold in sports IP deals

Sport needs money to operate, and with a large chunk of funding stemming from sponsorship, the sale of IP is the very lifeblood of the industry, a panel discussion heard.

Yesterday, October 16, participants in the “On the ball – IP and sport” panel at the 2017 AIPPI World Congress in Sydney discussed the changing industry and challenges faced.

“It’s rare these days to find sponsorship being taken because the chief executive loves cricket. It’s about a business decision,” explained Gillian Harris, general manager, commercial partnerships at the Football Federation Australia.

For the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, funding is slightly different as it comes from the public purse.

Paula Robinson, head of legal and brand protection for the Commonwealth Games and partner at MinterEllison, said: “One of the challenges with a four-year event is that we’re reinventing the wheel each time. We can’t get ongoing sponsors; it can be quite challenging.”

That’s not the only challenge. Sponsors are currently awaiting the fallout from an Australian case called Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) v Telstra. Two weeks before the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, the AOC took action against telecoms company Telstra.

Annabelle Williams, legal counsel at the AOC, explained that Telstra was not a sponsor of any Olympic entity but ran an advert linking itself to Channel 7 (an official Olympics broadcaster).

Channel 7 was able to sell advertising rights allowing companies to associate with its broadcast, but not the Olympics, which was a “very fine line to walk”, she said.

The parties had an urgent final hearing and the application for an injunction was dismissed so, earlier this year, the AOC appealed.

“Given the fact that all of our revenue is generated through sponsorship and advertising, if non-Olympic partners can do what Telstra did, it’s going to have a significant effect on whether they continue to invest in the Olympic movement,” stated Williams.

Robinson added that sponsors are “very aware of how that decision has gone so far and want to know what we’re going to do to protect” their investments.

Koichi Tsujii, partner at Nakamura & Partners and advisor to the Japanese Olympic Committee, explained that nearly 48% of income for the event comes from broadcasting rights, followed by partnerships, licensing and ticket sales.

He added that as sponsors pay a lot of money for exclusivity, it’s “important that strong measures should be taken” against infringement.

Janey Draper, head of legal at Australian News Channel, tackled issues including virtual reality and online.

Increasingly, the question is being asked of who owns the rights, she said, citing the dispute between the makers of a National Basketball Association (NBA) video game and the association over the use of NBA players’ tattoos in the game.

The panel was moderated by Stuart Corbishley, founder of Corbishley Sport & Law.

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