World Intellectual Property Organization

Sport and Development

“Intellectual property underpins the many commercial relationships that exist in the world of sport, and offers enormous potential as a driver of economic development.” – Francis Gurry, WIPO Director General

The economic importance of intellectual property (IP) and sport, and their potential contribution to development have led to an increased focus on the issue among WIPO’s member states and throughout the wider United Nations (UN) family.  UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has emphasized the commitment of the UN system to promote sport as a tool for development – including in achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

Sport is accessible to all. Football, one of the world’s favorite sports, has over 240 million players in 1.4 million teams in 300,000 clubs across the world. Sport can generate income, create jobs and support local economic development.

Sport can support development by:

  • Generating income from sports-related sales and services;
  • Boosting international trade;
  • Supporting business growth, entrepreneurship and job creation;
  • Enhancing a country’s reputation;
  • Transcending national differences; and fostering universal values of fair play, mutual respect and friendship;
  • Improving health and social well-being;
  • Encouraging discipline, teamwork, and a competitive spirit.

The multi-billion dollar industry in sportswear and equipment fosters innovation and trade, and boosts foreign exchange earnings. Staging sporting events, whether at grassroots, national or international levels, can enrich the social and cultural fabric of communities, making them more attractive locations for investors and tourists.

However, the business of sport requires a solid legal framework to support the exploitation and trading of IP rights, as well as human and organizational skills.


WIPO activities

Jamaica Offers Signed Photo of Ussain Bolt to WIPO
(Photo: WIPO/Berrod)

WIPO, the UN’s specialist agency for IP, offers awareness-raising and training programs which encourage the strategic use of IP, particularly in developing countries, to promote a dynamic and sustainable sports sector capable of attracting major sports events and creating increased opportunities for development, wealth creation and growth.

The programs focus on the human and institutional skills and capacity needed to support the business of sport in member states so as to spur innovation, boost commerce, and stimulate social and economic development. They also address the creation of an enabling regulatory environment for IP, including how to tackle IP property violations that can erode sponsors’ confidence and the benefits associated with the hosting of major sports events.

WIPO’s capacity building programs are demand driven and tailored to the social and cultural context of each country. They involve a wide range of stakeholders, such as government and public bodies, enforcement officials and judiciary, legal practitioners, agents, athletes, clubs and sports federations, event organizers, donors and sponsors, sports goods manufacturers, and television and media companies.

WIPO’s international partners in this endeavor include the International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) and Sports Rights Owners Coalition (SROC).

Key activities include:

  • Assisting governments and public institutions to integrate IP and sport into their national development plans;
  • Raising awareness of the relevance of IP to sport among national and regional sports bodies, sports managers and businesses and legal practitioners;
  • Capacity building activities for sports bodies, sports managers and businesses, and legal practitioners. These are designed to help them implement effective IP strategies, and develop IP-focused business plans and practical tools to acquire, exploit and protect their portfolio of IP and related assets, both domestically and internationally. Areas covered include:

The UN and Sport

“Sport has become a world language, a common denominator that breaks down all the walls, all the barriers. It is a worldwide industry whose practices can have widespread impact. Most of all, it is a powerful tool for progress and for development.” – Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General

More than a decade ago, the United Nations recognized the potential offered by sport to promote sustainable development and peace. In 2001, the UN Secretary General appointed a Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, a position held since March 2008 by Wilfried Lemke. WIPO works in close collaboration with the UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace, as well as with other members of the UN family.



  • Regional seminar for Asia Pacific countries on the Strategic Use of IP by the Sports Industry (organized in cooperation with
    the IP Office of Singapore) (Singapore - November 25 and 26, 2014)
  • International Conference on the Strategic Use of IP to Sustain Sport in Africa (organized in cooperation with the Government of Senegal) (Dakar - May 21 and 22, 2013)
  • Sub Regional Seminar on Intellectual property and Sport (San Jose - Costa Rica, July 9 and 10, 2012)
  • International Conference on the Strategic Use of IP by the Sport Industry (Rio de Janeiro - Brazil, September 12 and 13, 2012)
  • Sub-regional Seminar on IP and Sport (hosted by Jamaica and Usain Bolt Management) (Kingston - April 19 and 20, 2011)


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