The goodwill associated with a successful sports brand can be one of the most valuable commercial assets for sporting organisations. It is essential that appropriate steps be taken to protect those brands, and to preserve their associated value.
There are a number of ways that sporting organisations can do this.
Registering trade marks
Sporting organisations should seek to register the key elements of their brands as trade marks under the Trade Marks Act 1995 (Cth). A registered trade mark provides the owner with the exclusive right to use the brand in relation to certain goods and services, and helps to protect the business from trade mark infringement.
Sporting organisations can also use their registered trade marks to leverage the value of their brand by licensing those marks to third parties for a fee, who can, as an example, use those protected marks to produce merchandise. Depending on the reputation of the relevant sporting organisation, these licences can be extremely lucrative.
So, which brand elements may be registrable as trade marks? These may include club, team, league, event, and/or organisation names and logos, as well as slogans, symbols and devices associated with, or owned by, those organisations. Organisations seeking to register a brand as a trade mark should first seek specialist legal advice in relation to the availability and registrability of that brand.
Sporting organisations should also seek to include brand protection arrangements in any contracts that they enter into which relate to the use of their brand (for example, sponsorship agreements).
These arrangements should include:
• restrictions on how, and in what circumstances, a licensee can use and exploit the sporting organisation’s brand;
• a requirement that licensees obtain the sporting organisation’s prior approval before using, or otherwise exploiting their brand; and
• that the sporting organisation has the ability to immediately withdraw any of the licensee’s rights to use or otherwise exploit the brand in certain circumstances, including where the licensee acts in a manner that may be detrimental to the reputation of the sporting organisation or the brand.
The effect of brand protection
When sporting organisations invest in protecting their brands they can:
• ensure that the value and integrity of their brand is maintained;
• encourage confidence in the brand amongst consumers; and
• increase revenue gained from sponsorship, merchandising and licensing arrangements.
The KKI Commercial and Sports Law team can assist sporting organisations to protect their valued brands. Contact our team if you would like to discuss further.