Cricket World Cup: Are Cricketers’ IP Rights Protected?

This month England’s cricketers secured their legendary status by winning the World Cup in dramatic fashion.

Subsequently, EIP conducted some research into whether the squad had protected their IP using trademarks, but to our surprise very few of them had. Associate, Nora Fowler, gives her views on the topic.

  1. Do you find it surprising that England’s cricketers haven’t applied for trademarks around their own names?

As more and more brands use famous people to endorse their products, increasingly celebrities from musicians (such as Beyoncé) to sports personalities (such as David Beckham) have sought to register their names, initials and even celebrations (see Usain Bolt) as trademarks in order to gain a stronger control of this valuable asset. With the increased interest in the Cricket World Cup this summer and the potential for associated endorsements by cricketers, it is perhaps only a matter of time before we see England’s cricketers do the same.

  1. Why do you think they have not acted already? Is it because they are not interested in building a personal brand?

It seems unlikely that there is no interest in building or protecting a personal brand. However, it is worth noting that obtaining a trademark registration for a famous name is not always entirely straight forward. In order to be registrable, a trademark must be distinctive (and not descriptive). In essence, the trademark must be capable of being a “badge of origin”. A problem may arise where the trademark for the sports personality’s name on certain products is seen by the public merely as an indication of them showing support or allegiance to that sports star or their team, rather than an indication of the origin of the products.

  1. How does cricket differ from other sports? Surely footballers, for example, are more on the ball?

In the last 10-20 years there have been a number of high-profile examples of sports personalities, especially footballers, protecting their names or initials. David Beckham has widely protected his name as a trademark, as has Lionel Messi. Cristiano Ronaldo has trademark registrations for his initials and shirt number CR7, to name but a few. The prominence of trademark registrations for football stars’ names may be partly down to the fact that football is the most widely watched sport in the world. However, trademark registrations are not just limited to football stars. Usain Bolt owns the trademark to his name and his famous celebration stance and Michael Phelps has protected his initials. With billions of cricket fans across the world, perhaps we will see more of this in cricket too.

  1. What could be the consequences be if IP is not secured? Is it likely someone would try and take advantage?

Without adequate protection of their rights, sports personalities run the risk of someone looking to capitalise on their fame, perhaps through selling products which appear to be associated with those sportspeople. A registered trademark provides the strongest protection against others seeking unfair advantage. Without it, the sportsperson would be relying on possible unregistered rights and passing-off, which can be more difficult to prove.

Following England’s success, it will be interesting to see whether our cricketers begin submitting trademark requests in order to protect the value of their personal brand following the increased exposure they will have experienced during and post the World Cup.

EIP conducted research using the UK IPO website

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