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The protection of sports events in the EU: Property, intellectual property, unfair competition and special forms of protection

By Thomas Margoni


This article analyses some of the legal tools available to organisers of sporting events under EU law and the law of EU Member States. The focus is on remedies based on property rights and contracts, as well as on intellectual property, unfair competition rules and so called “special” forms of protection. As it is well known, in fact, following the ECJ ruling in Premier League v. QC Leisure, sporting events as such do not qualify as works under EU copyright law. Nevertheless, the article shows that remedies based on both traditional and new forms of property, IP and cognate rights can still offer adequate protection to sports organisers. First, many sports events take place in dedicated venues on which sports organisers can claim exclusive use rights and thereupon develop conditional access agreements (i.e. “house right”). Second, the recording and broadcast of sporting events may give rise to a variety of intellectual property rights, especially in the field of copyright and related rights. Third, unfair competition rules, and in particular misappropriation doctrines, have been invoked to protect sporting activities from unauthorised copying. Fourth, special forms of protection have recently been devised at the national level in order to offer an additional layer of rights protecting sports organisers. The article argues that even in the absence of a dedicated EU harmonised right tailored to sports events, the current legal framework is well equipped to offer protection to the investments that the sport industry is making in this sector. The article also argues that national initiatives in the field have so far proven of little practical relevance and, as a matter of fact, have the potential to clash with the general EU legal framework. There is only one area that escapes this rule: a right to use sporting events data to organise betting activities, or in other words, a right to consent to bets. The article concludes that if such a right is to be recognised, it is not the field of intellectual property, nor even property in general, the most appropriate area of law at which to look

Publisher: Springer Verlag
Year: 2016
OAI identifier:
Provided by: Enlighten

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