Established in 1904 to amalgamate national soccer associations, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is known today for organizing the world’s largest single-sport event, the FIFA World Cup. This exceptional football competition attracts millions of viewers from across the globe, therefore necessitating the protection of its intellectual property through rigid guidelines.
Intellectual Property Held By FIFA
FIFA holds exclusive rights, inter alia, in areas such as media, marketing, licensing, and ticketing for the FIFA World Cup 26. These rights are protected in various territories around the world by forms of IP such as Copyright, trademarks, and different laws such as unfair competition, passing off, and other stringent laws, in order to avoid any unapproved use of identical reproductions and confusingly similar variations and modification of the official IP.
FIFA established a variety of brand assets connected with the Tournament and FIFA. These assets consist of logos, words, titles, symbols, and other identifiers.
The guidelines also provide an official list of all Intellectual Property associated with the federation, the following:
- Official emblem
- Official wordmark
- Official Slogan
- Host City Logos
- Official Host City Slogan plus Logos
- Host City Slogans
- Official mascot and official poster
- Official Trophy
- FIFA Corporate Mark
- FIFA plus marks
- Word Marks such as FIFA World Cup, World Cup 25, Copa Mundial de la FIFA 26 etc.
- Official Typeface “FWC 26”
- The FIFA’s business model typically consists of a three-tier sponsorship system, incorporating FIFA partners, at the top, followed by FIFA World Cup sponsors and FIFA World Cup tournament supporters at the bottom.
- The FIFA Partners, who are closely connected to FIFA, have been granted worldwide commercial rights in relation to FIFA and competitions, including the tournament. Further, the FIFA World Cup sponsors have been given global commercial rights concerning the selected FIFA men’s national team competitions, including the Tournament. Lastly, the sponsors receive global commercial rights with regard to the tournament.
- The FIFA World Cup Tournament Supporters are organizations to whom FIFA has granted or will grant commercial rights concerning specific countries or regions connected with the tournament.
- The host committee, host city supporters, and host city donors are entitled to use FIFA Intellectual Property Rights for certain permitted activities that are promotional and to produce licensed products.
- Licensees of Media Rights: Media Rights Licensees are organizations that will be granted media rights to the Tournament in a specific territory or territories. Among these media rights are TV rights, Radio rights, Broadband rights, IPTV and mobile transmission rights.
- Branded/ Unbranded licenses: FIFA will grant such entities the rights to develop, manufacture, and sell products however bearing the official marks:
- Branded Official Licensed Products are official products that carry the marks of the Official Intellectual Property and the Licensee (company).
- Unbranded Official Licensed Products – official products bearing only Official Intellectual Property.
- Official Suppliers: These are the entities to which FIFA will grant to promote rights i.e. these entities can promote themselves as official suppliers of goods and services for FIFA competitions including the Tournament.
- Hospitality Partner: This will be the entity / company that would be permitted by FIFA to offer ticket inclusive hospitality packages worldwide either directly or through their appointed sale agents.
Importance Of Protecting IP Rights
FIFA grants various entities across different industries around the world, certain commercial rights, such as broadcasting, hospitality, advertising, and other promotional rights associated with FIFA and/or the Tournament. On providing exclusivity on Intellectual Property for official marks and other commercial marks, Right Holders make vital contributions to ensure that the Tournament can be staged worldwide.
If the Tournament brand is not protected and makes it easy for anyone to use the Official Intellectual Property to create an association with the Tournament for free, the value of the obtained rights would be significantly reduced. As a result, the protection of FIFA’s commercial rights, including the Official Intellectual Property, is critical for the Tournament’s staging, and FIFA demands that non-affiliated entities/individuals respect FIFA’s rights and avoid any commercial association with the Tournament.
Exclusivity must be granted to increase the value of each rights holder’s brand and prevent it from being used by arbitrary individuals or organizations.
FIFA’s strategy to protect its IP Assets
FIFA has a breadth of Official Intellectual Property. These Official Intellectual Property of FIFA is secured through registration Intellectual Property Rights Department and by declaring FIFA’s trademarks as well-known trademark accruing its protection under the Paris Convention of Industrial Property. Thus, FIFA’s trademarks will be automatically protected to countries subscribing to the Paris Convention of Industrial Property. FIFA also insists the host cities put in place IP legislation to adequately protect its rights and those of its commercial partners throughout the tournament. In addition, FIFA issues specific guidelines for IP protection. It includes policies in connection with prints and digital media, social media, mobile and internet service/application domain names/URLs and hyperlinks, ads, ticket promotions, merchandise and several more.
Before and during the world cup, FIFA launches an around the clock surveillance force aimed at identifying infringement FIFA’s IP rights. FIFA actively keeps watch on IP registers across the globe to safeguard and preserve the exclusivity of the FIFA world cup brands.
Challenges faced by FIFA in protecting its IP Assets
Ambush Marketing: Ambush marketing poses another a big threat in protecting FIFA Official Intellectual Property. Ambush Marketing is a practice of unofficially associating a brand or trademark with FIFA world cup even if the brand is not an official sponsor of the event. For example, a non-sponsor company greeting a football player competing in the event whom the business sponsors and showing its trademark in connection with any symbol or word representing the FIFA world cup. For instance, in 2014 world cup, 40% of UK, US and Brazilian consumers thought that Pepsi, Mastercard and Nike were official sponsors, but they were not and were in disguise of Ambush Marketing.
Unauthorized streaming/broadcasting: Unauthorized streaming/broadcasting is another genuine issue in FIFA world cup’s IP infringement. One of the reasons is that sponsorship being increasingly expensive, unauthorized persons are reaping benefits by hiding under a veil, which results in tarnishing the goodwill of the real sponsor as well as the gain of unscrupulous profits. Thus, the original sponsor does not enjoy the intended advantage and loses its identity in the market. For instance, in 2022, China Central Television (CCTV) were exclusive media right holder in China and they have sublicensed the rights to six platform only. However, watching world cup matches on unauthorized platforms remains common and poses a big challenge in surveillance and timely takedown of the content.
Thus, to conclude, FIFA has a large portfolio of Official Intellectual Property, policies, regulations and protection programs in place to secure its Intellectual Property. Though certain jurisdiction has a weak IP framework however, FIFA will try to protect its IP assets from every possible infringement and would not allow its infringers to encash on its Official Intellectual Property. Therefore, the IP guidelines notified by FIFA underscore the paramount importance of protecting the exclusivity granted to FIFA rights holders, ensuring the financial sustainability of the event, and supporting football development initiatives. By offering detailed insights into acceptable and unacceptable uses across various media and promotional channels, FIFA aims to strike a delicate balance between fostering genuine celebration of the event and mitigating unauthorized commercial associations. As the world eagerly anticipates the monumental FIFA World Cup 26, these guidelines stand as a crucial framework to maintain the integrity of the event and uphold the rights and investments of those associated with it.
FIFA Dos and Don’ts: Click Here
Authors: Abha Shah, Bhumika Sharma & Saurojit Barua