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”

Geneva, April 25, 2019

World Intellectual Property Day 2019 explores how innovation, creativity and the intellectual property (IP) rights that encourage and protect them support the development and worldwide enjoyment of sports.

Since its inception in 2000, every year on April 26, World IP Day highlights, through the lens of a specific theme, how IP rights encourage innovation and creativity. This year’s theme is “Reach for Gold: IP and Sports.” More than 400 grassroots-organized celebrations are planned worldwide for World IP Day 2019, with other events expected in the coming days.

“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,” said WIPO Director General Francis Gurry in his World IP Day 2019 message.

“Intellectual property rights underlie and empower the financial model of all sporting events worldwide. IP rights are 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,” he said.

Previously, fans purchased a ticket to witness an event, in a stadium. Now, broadcasters make it possible for a global fan base to tune into and connect with a sporting event, itself transformed by technological advancements, Mr. Gurry said.

While technology has always played a role in the sports landscape, recent advancements are fueling sports evolution like never before. For instance, widely used wearable tech - smart sports equipment embedded with sensors - enables athletes to avoid injury and better monitor and improve their performance.

And in the sports stadium, huge investments in innovative technologies ensure fans have access to a rich blend of physical and digital experiences that connect them more closely with the on-field action.

Cutting-edge technologies, from sophisticated sports prostheses to satellite navigation systems that guide blind athletes, are also enabling athletes living with disabilities to achieve record-breaking performances.

“All this is possible because of technological innovations, which are empowered and encouraged by intellectual property,” said Mr. Gurry.

Strategic use of trademarks can generate significant revenue streams.

“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 … and sponsorship deals,” the Director General said.

In addition, design contributes to the distinct identity of a product – competitors’ sports gear, for example – rendering it more appealing to consumers, adding commercial value.

“Design … 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,” Mr. Gurry said.

More information on how the entire range of IP rights– patents, trademarks, industrial designs, copyright and others – support sports development is available in “Intellectual Property and Sports: Tracing the Connections.”

Innovation in the sports industry

In a snapshot view of global patenting activity over the past five years in the sports industry, new figures revealed for World Intellectual Property Day 2019 show that U.S. sports giant Nike is the top filer of sports-related international patent applications through WIPO.

In total, 2,078 sports-related applications[*] under WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) were published by WIPO in 2018, a 9% increase on figures for 2017 (1,900 PCT applications) and a 41% increase on figures for 2014 (1,470 PCT applications).

Top PCT sport-related applicants (2014-2018)

Applicant Sport-related PCT applications (published 2014-2018)
NIKE 239

WIPO’s PATENTSCOPE database provides access to international Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications, as well as to patent documents of participating national and regional patent offices. It is a valuable tool in searching for published patent applications around the world.

About World IP Day

WIPO’s member states initiated World Intellectual Property Day in 2000 to raise public awareness about the role of IP in daily life, and to celebrate the contribution made by innovators and creators to the development of societies across the globe. World IP Day is celebrated annually on April 26, the date on which the Convention establishing WIPO entered into force in 1970.


* Sports-related patent applications are those bearing relevant International Patent Classification (IPC) codes. These codes are used to classify patents and utility models according to the areas of technology to which they relate. For illustrative purposes, WIPO selected several dozen IPC codes that related closely to sports. PCT applications represent a portion of worldwide patenting activity.

About WIPO

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the global forum for intellectual property policy, services, information and cooperation. A specialized agency of the United Nations, WIPO assists its 193 member states in developing a balanced international IP legal framework to meet society's evolving needs. It provides business services for obtaining IP rights in multiple countries and resolving disputes. It delivers capacity-building programs to help developing countries benefit from using IP. And it provides free access to unique knowledge banks of IP information.

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