Copyright News
How Sportsmen Earn from Intellectual Property
By George Mbaye
he sports industry is a platform in
which the products offered to the
public are sport, recreational and lei-
sure. Sport has thus become one of the fastest
growing global industries in the 21
The magnitude of the sport industry
can be measured by the cost of hosting
sports events, the revenue generated by
sports events and the earning power of top
international athletes.
One of the most important measures of
the growth and success of a sports event
these days is investment in social legacy.
An examination of some of the figures will
bear this out. Sports in the 21
has become a standard source of income
for economies, sportsmen and women,
coaches and associations. It is estimated that
the global sport industry is valued at over
In 2013, Tiger woods was the highest paid
athletes in the world with earnings of $71.5
million. Woods makes most of his money
from endorsement deals with brands like
Fuse Science Inc., Net Jets, Kowa and Rolex.
Out of $71.5 million in earnings, $65 million
came from endorsements.
In May 2013 the world witnessed Real
Madrid Football Club sign Tottenham
forward Gareth Bale. The Wales star agreed a
£300,000 (Sh39,600,000) per week, six-year
deal after sealing an £85.3m (100m euros)
(Sh11.25b) move.
Intellectual property lies at the heart of
the huge opportunities made available by
sports. Our day to day lives revolve around
a number of co-curricular activities that are
aimed at relaxation and generally to take
our minds from the usual hustle and bustle
of daily routine schedules. Intellectual
property is directly related to trade,
competition, industrial growth and economic
development. The business/economic sector
related to merchandising and sponsorship
is heavily linked and modelled around
intellectual property rights. Intellectual
property further seeks to reward and protect
Kenyan sport personalities are exciting
to watch and one thing is for sure, that they
never disappoint. Kenya’s bedrock is found
in the story of its people; a diverse cross-
section of people who have all played a role
in the nation’s history. Other than shaping
Kenya’s history the athletes have also shaped
the image of Kenya. Kenya’s athletes are
world famous for their resilience, endurance
and clinical finishes.
But what is it about them that makes them
not stand out in the cash rich financial sector?
As we watched Hellen Obiri steaming down
the field to clinch the senior women’s gold in
Aarhus, Denmark at the recently concluded
IAAF World championship it is glaring clear
that we have a long way to go in terms of
protecting image rights and the IP property
rights that Kenyan athletes have.
A cursory look at some of these
individuals will show that they may use IP
rights to control the use of certain image
with which they are associated. Take for
instance that, Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt’s
Lightning Bolt, USA basketball star Michael
Jordan’s jumpman pose and his Air Jordan
brand shoes, and English Rugby star Johnny
Wilkinson’s distinct kicking stance are all
registered trademarks.
Without conferring absolute rights over
those poses and stances, IP rights prevent
unauthorised commercial use of products
without the endorsement of the sportsmen
and women. Even without a registered
trademark, however, celebrity athletes
have image or personality rights to prevent
unauthorised use of their name, likeness
or other personal attributes. The WIPO’s
international trademark registration system,
known as the Madrid system, enables
trademark holders to file a single application
for registration in up to 85 countries, and to
maintain and renew those marks through a
single procedure.
How then can Kenyan athletes benefit from
the IP protection system? Sports contracts and
proper drafting and management of the same
plays a key role towards commercialisation of
IP rights in sports.