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Trademark Infringement in Sports Leagues


Last Updated on May 30, 2024 by Swetha LLM

In the sports sector, there are many different types of intellectual property (IP). Intellectual property (IP) is necessary for the creation and maintenance of brand identification in sports, affecting everyone from manufacturers to broadcasters, athletes to organizers, and corporate sponsors to sports entities.

Trademark infringement must be handled carefully, and this applies to sports enterprises of all sizes. With more money being lost to infringers, concerns regarding trademark infringement in sports are expected to grow. Trademark infringement has an impact on not only the earnings and reputation of different brands but, nonetheless, employment chances in the sports industry.

What does the sports industry view as violating trademarks?

Within the sports sector, a diverse array of brands exists. The sports industry incorporates important players, like sports teams, athletes, federations, manufacturers of fitness products, broadcasters, leagues, and sports accessory companies. Offenders use different strategies that can expose brands to trademark infringement, which could have negative effects.

In the sports industry, there is a trademark infringement when unauthorized use, alteration, distribution, copying, or sale of labels, items, logos, or phrases belonging to the owner takes place. This practice leaves customers wondering where to buy the goods, materials, or pictures featuring the trademark.

For example, one of cricket’s most well-known and advantageous events, the Indian Premier League (IPL), has its name and emblem formally registered by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which regulates cricket in India. Several times, the IPL’s trade name and logo have been violated.

Importance of trademark in sports

1) Brand Recognition: Trademarks are effective instruments for fostering fan memory and brand recognition. A catchy tagline or attractive logo can act as a fast reminder to fans of their favourite sportsmen or sports teams.

For example, Sachin Tendulkar, the iconic cricketer from India, has officially trademarked both his name and signature. His autograph is featured on different clothing, sports equipment, and stationery products, including pens, pencils, and books.

2) Commercial Value: Well-known sports brands are in high demand due to their profitable sponsorship, goods, and endorsement deals. Athletes and teams become more marketable by using trademarks to help them establish their own identities.

3) Safeguarding Against Counterfeiting: The international sports sector is confronted with the vast availability of fake goods, which is a significant barrier. Through the use of trademarks, sports teams and athletes can protect their fans and financial investments by pursuing legal recourse against counterfeiters.

What are some fast methods to discover trademark infringements that exist within the realm of sports?

Below are some rapid techniques for identifying trademark violations in the sports industry in order to protect your business.

1) Get your trademarks registered

Before anything else, make sure to officially register your trademarks with the relevant intellectual property authority. If your sports brand is located in India or you are interested in protecting your trademarks there, you can register your work with the Controller General of Patent, Design and Trademark, are referred to as the Office of the Registrar of Trademarks.

2) Observe your trademarks carefully

To preserve the protection of your trademarks in the sports business, both online and offline, make sure you actively monitor their usage. Searches on social media sites, online markets, and search engines are some ways to keep vigilant on your trademarks.

Make sure to specifically focus on the periodic increases in online activity that coincide with live sports games and events. During these times, it’s important to stay alert and identify possible violators of trademarks by conducting targeted keyword and image searches.

3) Interact with customers and admirers

The way fans make investments in leagues, teams, and athletes makes the sports business distinct. You have to take this into consideration as a sports brand and make the most of fan interaction.

Ask sports enthusiasts about concerns related to intellectual property infringement. Customers are your first line of defence, thus, instructing them about your brand is crucial. It will be easier for people to defend themselves against con artists if they are more knowledgeable about IP infringement. They will be able to alert you to address any potential violations as they get more adept at identifying them.

4) Recognize and check licensing

Make sure you have an accurate and strict licensing agreement in place if you have granted third parties a license to use your brand or certain trademarks. In order to catch misconduct or term overstepping, periodically monitor and examine these contracts in addition to the licensees’ operations.

The best methods for dealing with trademark infringement in the sports sector

1) Report violators on social media and markets

There’s a possibility that dishonest people on social media or in marketplaces are targeting your sports brand. For example, they can use your logo on Instagram without your permission or sell fake copies of your athletic goods on Amazon.

The internal reporting guidelines for marketplaces and social media platforms can be used to handle these kinds of problems and begin the process of getting these infringers removed. All reports must be accompanied by supporting documentation, like screenshots, email logs, and online activities. Typically, you will also need to present evidence showing the trademarks in question are owned by your sports brand.

2) Issue a letter of cease and desist

Sending the offender a stop and desist letter is a more official way to directly address any potential infringement. This letter serves as a pre-action legal tool. It will declare that you own the intellectual property, alert the offending party to a possible violation of a trademark, and threaten legal action if they continue.

This popular strategy will provide your brand with a strong foundation upon which to pursue dishonest people through legal channels. It has the potential to keep away infringers and motivate them to stop attacking your sports brand.

3) Inform the authorities regarding violators

Additionally, you can report infringement of trademarks to the appropriate Governmental body. Trademark infringement will be taken seriously by government authorities as they are considered intellectual property offenses. Reporting violators, however, does not ensure that they will be looked into. If the situation calls for it, you ought to focus on bringing a lawsuit to make sure concrete steps are taken.

4) Use a comprehensive strategy to protect your brand

When a trademark is widely violated, an automated brand protection system is necessary. This automation is highly efficient and cost-effective when it comes to managing serious violations.

Obstacles with Sports Leagues’ Guidelines for Trademark Infringement

1) The inability to trademark a physical move is evident from the current worldwide trademark regulations.

For example, Take Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players ever. Michael Jordan is known for his “Air Jordan” slam dunk, a recognizable gesture that is being used as a device mark on Nike apparel. If other players in basketball were to imitate Michael Jordan’s move, basketball fans would not be hard-pressed to believe that maybe another player is currently linked to Nike or perhaps to Michael Jordan’s brand identity.

2) Another problem is that trademarks run the risk of giving their owners an advantage on specific aspects of their actions or physical movements, which rivals may readily copy mistakenly or unknowingly.

Consider Usain Bolt’s “Lightning Bolt” position. Bolt would have been able to sue hundreds or maybe thousands of people who had copied his posture during the years if the actual move had been protected by a trademark.


1. What are the methods to identify if someone is misusing my trademark?

Examine situations where third parties have unlawfully used your brand for similar products or services. Similar-sounding brands that confuse customers are a sign of trademark infringement.

2. What are the consequences for trademark infringement in India?

A minimum imprisonment of six months, up to a maximum of three years. The infringer may face a fine ranging from Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 2,00,000.

3. Can I use the IPL logo?

No. The property of BCCI includes all trade names, trademarks, and service marks on this website unless stated otherwise. Any use of these marks for any reason necessitates prior written consent from BCCI.

4. Can trademarks from other countries be violated?

It is true that trademarks are territorial, which opens the door to potential worldwide violation. Consider enforcing rights through international agreements and registering trademarks in relevant countries.

Swetha LLM

Swetha, LLM, a lawyer with skills in writing legal content, is passionate about simplifying complex legal concepts and engaging readers with her insights of nuanced legal ideas. She is able to preserve the accuracy of legal material while adjusting the tone and style to fit the audience.