July 11, 2014

Good Sportsmanship in IP

By Kelly Anderson

When you think of the World Cup, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Intense soccer matches where the players leave their hearts on the field? Packed bars with enthusiastic beer-drinking fans donning their home country’s gear? I bet most people certainly don’t immediately think of intellectual property (IP), but believe it or not, IP plays a critical role in every aspect of the games – from the way players line up for free kicks to the way users live-stream the games from all over the world.

This week, the GIPC and the Brazil-U.S. Business Council hosted an event to explore the role of IP at this year’s World Cup in Brazil. We heard from both U.S. and Brazilian industry representatives about the ways in which both the government and companies can protect their IP and combat counterfeiting prior to and during the course of the games.

But first, we started by looking at the role innovation has played in the evolution of the sport itself. Cesar Parga with the Organization of American States used the example of a vanishing aerosol spray that the referees use to mark where the players should line up prior to the opposing team’s free kick. The spray delineates the 10 yard mark from the kicker and helps ensure that the players can’t shimmy their way a bit closer. Soccer – like most athletic sports – is a game of inches (just like Al Pacino says) so marking where the players should line up with the vanishing foam can be the difference between a missed opportunity and a goal.

We were also joined by Carolina Lessa with Reed Elsevier and Elyssa Michelle Lefevre Chayo with Di Blasi Parente & Associados who spoke about both the importance of IP to the Brazilian economy and some of the measures taken by the Brazilian government to prepare for the games. Both Carolina and Elyssa noted some of the ways Brazil is strengthening its IP system by implementing programs to drastically reduce the patent backlog as well as the creation of special enforcement zones to seize counterfeit goods related to the games.

And surely we had to address the folks all around the world who were slyly streaming the games from their desks. David Green with NBCUniversal spoke about the different online streaming options available for major sporting events like the World Cup, and the great opportunities that “water cooler” events like the World Cup, the Olympics, or Super Bowl provide for major broadcasters when a company owns the licensing rights to broadcast the games.

The message from the panelists was clear: good sportsmanship in IP is as critically important to the games as sportsmanship on the field. From the Brazilian government’s preparation for the event to the new innovations that made the World Cup possible, there were certainly no red cards in the game of IP, proving that when the private and public sector work as teammates, the victors can be both the athletes on the field and those whose IP was safeguarded.

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