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Would you wear a pair of Freddie Flintoff shoes? Would you sleep in a Shane Warne bed sheet? Many in the cricket industry are looking to take advantage of intellectual property (IP) rights. Welcome to the (slightly mad) world of cricket trade marks…
When registering a trade mark in any industry, it’s important to think further afield than your home country. With a sport like cricket, which has a global appeal and an especially large following in countries like India, ensuring your rights are protected around the world is vital.
With all sports stars, there will be individuals who would like to use an athlete’s success on the pitch to make a profit from it. Ultimately, you should be able to profit from your own popularity and success by registering trade marks around the world. This puts you in the advantageous position of being able to license your trade marks to those who would like to profit from your popularity. You also have the benefit of overseeing exactly how your marks are used.
Many trade marks which feature players’ names are often registered without their knowledge. Here are some of my favourite examples, which can all be viewed on the Indian Intellectual Property Office’s website.
It seems apparent that no prior consent was given by Flintoff and co. However, there are mechanisms for individuals to challenge registrations, especially if applications are made in bad faith and there’s an obvious attempt to take advantage of someone’s reputation.
Trade marks may also be subject to cancellations for non-use, but whether there’s use of a mark or not, such ‘trade mark trolls’ certainly have the intent to profit from a cricketer’s popularity and success.
Some people in cricket are getting it right when it comes to trade mark registrations.
In a more positive move, the English supporter group commonly known as the ‘Barmy Army’ has taken the correct approach by registering a number of marks comprising the words BARMY ARMY in both the UK and India. So, thankfully, we won’t be seeing that on any unsuspecting bedroom furnishings in the near future.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) also took the smart decision to apply for overseas trade marks to protect its rights to a new format of cricket (‘The Hundred’) set to be introduced in 2020. The new tournament is designed to attract "a younger audience and new fans" and the ECB has applied to register the words ‘The Hundred’ in the UK, India, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland.
However, the BBC reported that overseas trade marks could mean that the ECB can demand payment from other international boards that want to play a version of the 100-ball format. However, this is incorrect — you cannot trade mark a particular format of cricket. The ECB holds trade marks for ‘T20’, yet there are a variety of leagues around the world that play this type of cricket, one of them being the prestigious Indian Premier League (IPL). The only thing that the ECB can trade mark is the name ‘The Hundred’ in relation to the new format.
Aside from the trolls, in India, it’s also very common for a major brand to officially associate itself with a cricketer. For example, Virat Kohli made over £10m after signing an eight-year bat sponsorship deal with MRF, the largest manufacturer of tyres in India. Although what a tyre company has to do with cricket, I have no idea.
There are a number of other famous trade marks in cricket that you may not be aware of. Many cricketers have also pounced on the opportunity to reap commercial benefits from registering their own name or logo. Here are a few examples:
Being a huge cricket fan, I was surprised to find many player nicknames that haven’t been registered as trade marks by the player or team they played for.
Two of my favourites would be:
Since Rupert Murdoch’s £1.97 billion purchase of the five-year global media rights to the IPL back in 2017, the amount of interest and money in cricket worldwide has risen immensely. It’s now more important than ever for cricketers and their teams to register names and logos as trade marks, to ensure that trade mark trolls can’t capitalise off their hard-earned popularity.
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