Nick White | Qatar passes new IP laws to protect rights to Fifa World Cup

Nick White, Partner at Charles Russell Speechlys.

With the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar fast approaching, host country lawmakers have enacted new intellectual property (IP) laws to protect the rights of Fifa and its commercial partners. The FIFA World Cup attracts the attention of billions of people worldwide and is the largest sporting event in the world next to the Olympic Games. Key brand assets such as the event name, World Cup trophy, official emblem and even the event mascot will be widely recognized around the world. Iconic assets as such are the cornerstone of Fifa’s commercial program and it is of paramount importance that the brand is adequately protected.

Passing specific intellectual property laws for the world’s biggest events is now commonplace and something that rights holders such as the International Olympic Committee and FIFA insist on from potential hosts as part of the bid process. The UK legislature enacted such legislation for the London Olympics in 2012, essentially giving organizers an exclusive right to authorize third parties to associate their goods or services with the London Olympics.

Qatar is the latest country to follow suit and with less than six months until the start of the competition, the Football Association has ensured that it has strengthened its intellectual property rights for the duration of the event.

How are Fifa’s intellectual property rights protected?

FIFA’s rights throughout the competition will be strengthened with the passage of Law No. 11 of 2021. The bespoke law, which overhauls the country’s existing framework, was enacted to regulate and regulate the full range of intellectual property rights of Fifa and its business partners, including trademarks, copyright and related rights.

With SportBusiness sponsorship According to reports, the partners of the Fifa World Cup pay between 9 and 23 million US dollars to participate in the international tournament, protecting the rights of sponsors and licensees is a critical aspect. Brands that don’t sponsor the event often try to come up with the most creative campaigns.

During the London Olympics, Paddy Power ran an ad “Official sponsor of the biggest athletics event in London this year” and joked that it was sponsoring an egg and spoon race in the city of London, France. Such campaigns can understandably cause dismay among the official event sponsors and partners of those events, who have paid generously for the right to join forces and have exclusive use of the event’s intellectual property.

The law recognizes Fifa’s trademarks as “well known” and protected in Qatar, regardless of whether they are registered there, as long as they are protected in one of the countries that have joined the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, which is the predominant one majority of countries worldwide. The law also provides an expedited procedure for Fifa to object to problematic third-party trademarks. The body of legislation put in place to protect the Football Association’s trademarks and copyrights is significant, ultimately strengthening and streamlining the process of registering and protecting the organization’s IP privileges during the tournament.

Enforcement of Fifa’s intellectual property and commercial rights

Law 10/2021, specifically Chapter 6, regulates Fifa’s commercial rights for the competition. It lays out what those rights are and covers everything from logos, billboards and the mascot to rights around broadcasting and musical works. The law strictly prohibits anyone from interfering with the above rights by using, recording, selling or imitating them without a license from Fifa. Registering and using domain names involving Fifa IP rights without a license is also prohibited.

Acts of unfair competition in relation to Fifa are also prohibited, including engaging in commercial activities that may be associated with Fifa or the Projects and Legacy Board; using tickets for advertising, betting or competitions or including their cost in tourism packages without Fifa’s written consent; and showing a public event without a license. Those who are granted a permit or license must abide by Fifa’s regulations.

In addition, Fifa has the exclusive right to issue and sell Tickets (although it may authorize third parties to do so on its behalf) and Tickets may not be issued, resold, redistributed or exchanged without a licence. FIFA determines the conditions for the sale or return of Tickets and processes the data of Ticket buyers.

Restricted zones, up to two kilometers in diameter, are to be established around each of the eight 2022 FIFA World Cup stadiums and any other venues determined by the governing body, such as the Fifa Fan Festival site. Commercial activities by anyone other than Fifa and its commercial partners may be restricted in such areas. Meanwhile, the legislation clarifies that all products marketed by Fifa and its partners can be sold and advertised in these areas.

We know that the first arrests under the new legislation took place in May, when Qatari authorities announced that five people had been arrested for promoting the sale of clothing bearing the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 logo without prior authorisation. In December 2021, authorities raided a facility manufacturing perfume for use in World Cup branded bottles, but made no arrests.

In addition, of course, no amount of Qatari legislation can affect what marketing or promotional activities take place outside of Qatar. As a result, Fifa and its teams on the ground must be as vigilant as ever when it comes to monitoring breaches and ambush marketing attempts that might be taking place elsewhere.

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