Resolving Disputes in Sport

WIPO’s Arbitration and Mediation Center provides two types of dispute resolution service for sports. One service tackles the abusive and unauthorized registration of domain names (website addresses) that misleadingly use company trademarks or names of sports personalities. The other provides arbitration and mediation services for a wide range of disputes that arise in sports, relating, for example, to sports broadcasting and media rights, licensing and merchandising rights for major sports events, and commercial exploitation of the image rights of athletes. 

Domain name disputes

(Photo: Austin Osuide)

WIPO's Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) has become accepted as an international standard for resolving domain name disputes outside the traditional courts. It is designed specifically to discourage and resolve the abusive registration of trademarks as domain names, commonly known as cybersquatting. Under the UDRP, a complainant must demonstrate that the disputed domain name is identical or confusingly similar to its trademark, that the respondent does not have a right or legitimate interest in the domain name, and that the respondent registered and used the domain name in bad faith.

Disputes brought to the WIPO Center are decided by independent panelists drawn from the WIPO Center’s list of trademark specialists. Many cases have been filed by well-known sports personalities, including footballer Wayne Rooney, organizers of competitions such as the London Marathon and the UEFA Champions League (European football), football teams Juventus (Turin, Italy) and Real Madrid, basketball’s New York Knicks, as well as trademarked products of sports goods manufacturers. 

Alternative dispute resolution for sports

Based at WIPO headquarters in Geneva, with an office in Singapore, the WIPO Center offers Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options, in particular arbitration and mediation, for the resolution of international commercial disputes between private parties. The Center’s ADR services for specific sectors includes dispute resolution advice and case administration services to help resolve disputes arising in the field of sports. Touching on a wide range of sports, disputes in the sports arena often relate to highly valuable trademarks, industrial designs, copyright and related rights, and patented technologies.

ADR is a flexible, time- and cost-efficient mechanism that helps parties in sports disputes to come to practical and satisfactory solutions. Parties can choose a mediator, arbitrator or expert with specific expertise in sports law, intellectual property (IP) and dispute resolution.  They also benefit from having a neutral forum for resolving an international dispute through a single procedure. ADR can be set up in a way that facilitates efficient enforcement of the outcome. WIPO’s administrative rules for ADR are also well suited for sports disputes.

Cases resolved by the WIPO Center include a patent license dispute related to sports goods and a dispute involving a broadcast rights distribution agreement.

In order to ensure quality dispute resolution services for sport, the WIPO Center collaborates with relevant stakeholders and organizations, notably the Association Suisse de Droit du Sport (ASDS) and the World Federation of the Sporting Goods Industry (WFSGI). Activities may include organization of joint events and training, and the establishment of adapted ADR frameworks.