Francis Gurry led WIPO as Director General from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2020.

World Intellectual Property Day 2019 – Reach for Gold: IP and Sports

Message from Director General Francis Gurry

We have been celebrating World Intellectual Property Day for the last 19 years. Each year we choose a theme that illustrates just how important intellectual property is to society, the economy and to our everyday lives.

The theme of this year’s campaign is “Reach for Gold: IP and Sports.” Sports are not necessarily something that you would immediately associate with intellectual property. However, if we deconstruct sport, we see that sport is essentially about the spectacle.

Video: Message from WIPO Director General Francis Gurry for World Intellectual Property Day 2019 – Reach for Gold: IP and Sports (also available on YouTube)

The way in which that spectacle occurs today is vastly different from the way in which it took place in the past. Traditionally, tickets were sold to sports fans to enter an arena to watch a spectacle. At that time, the excitement of sporting competition did not move much beyond the arena. Now thanks to remarkable technological advances, millions and millions of people around the world can tune into and watch the spectacle, which itself has been transformed in many ways by technology. That process of broadcasting sporting action to fans in all parts of the world, and the investment it requires, rewards broadcasters with an intellectual property right, which in turn makes it possible to finance the spectacle.

Intellectual property rights underlie and empower the financial model of all sporting events worldwide.

Director General Francis Gurry

Today, broadcasters have many advanced communications technologies available to them. Thanks to these remarkable innovations we can connect ever more closely with a game or a match; we can even hear what the umpire is saying to the players, and in some sports, what the players themselves are saying to each other. All this is possible because of technological innovations, which are empowered and encouraged by intellectual property.

Design, another intellectual property right, enables teams, organizers of sporting competitions and sports brands to develop and promote their unique and distinct identity and for fans to distinguish between them.

And of course, trademarks which underpin sports branding, are an exceptionally important intellectual property right for teams and athletes to differentiate themselves and stand apart in a highly competitive market. Trademark rights are critical in allowing individual players and teams to gain a monetary reward from, for example, merchandising – including apparel, accessories, footwear and more – and sponsorship deals. 

Intellectual property rights underlie and empower the financial model of all sporting events worldwide. IP rights lie at the heart of the global sports ecosystem and all the commercial relationships that make sports happen and that allow us to tune in to sporting action whenever, wherever, and however we want. 

This year’s World Intellectual Property Day campaign celebrates the positive role that intellectual property plays in encouraging sports, a wonderful range of pursuits in which human beings have always engaged and which enrich our lives in so many different ways. 

I wish you every success with the multiplicity of events that are occurring around the world in celebration of World Intellectual Property Day 2019.