Sports Law

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Sports Law is a fresh and highly extensive sector of the law which now delves into various other aspects of law which move away from the traditional view of sports. As part of our Gaming, IP and ICT Law practice group, our Sports Law practice delves into how this modern sector of law has established itself in the areas of Gaming Law, Intellectual Property Law and ICT Law in Malta.

Sports Law and Intellectual Property (IP)

The world of sports presents a number of commercial opportunities to those who know how to recognise them. Such commercial activities are intimately intertwined to IP law, elevating sports from a mere entertainment activity to a fully-fledged business industry which is steadily flourishing and taking on an increasingly important role in the world economy as a job creator. In fact, the sports industry accounts for $300 billion+ on a worldwide economic scale and is also responsible for mobilising resources and investing in public infrastructure.

One only needs to walk into a stadium filled with sportspersons in their specialised and branded gear being cheered on by excited fans bearing their favourite club’s branded jerseys, scarves, tops and caps to see intellectual property laws at work.

From innovative new technology which leads the way towards improved sports equipment, to branding and character merchandising, various IP rights come into play in this lucrative sector.

Innovators are driven to come up with ingenious new equipment thanks to patents which grant legal protection to the technology used in the creation of sports equipment. Aesthetics are also an important consideration which is why design rights are also protected in order to protect the signature look of equipment. The importance of protecting a brand’s distinct identity is also highly important. Trademarks law confers such protection onto a brand’s trademarks as the latter ensure that the brand is distinguished from similar products of a lesser quality, thus protecting the reputability of the product, the company who makes it, and the sportspersons or club that endorse it. Copyrights are responsible for the generation of revenue needed in order to allow broadcasters to broadcast the sports event to fans all over the world.

Thus, IP rights play a crucial role in the economic value of sports and provide the foundations for licensing, merchandising agreements, sponsorships, media and broadcasting which generate the revenues required to support the development of the sports industry. Even sportspersons themselves are increasingly making use of IP Law to protect their image.

Gaming in Sports Law –Betting and eSports

Betting has established itself as a popular Practice in Malta. Bet365- Hillside (New Media Malta) Limited is a leading online gaming operator providing sports betting, casino and poker type games which has chosen Malta as its licensing base in August 2015. Malta is renowned for its licence reputability which accounts for its success in attracting large investors to its shores.

eSports is another engaging sector which brings together gaming and sports law. eSport constitutes a form of competition facilitated by electronic systems, mainly video games, which mostly take the form of organised multiplayer video game competitions between professional players. This mode of sports is becoming increasingly popular globally, including in Malta. Websites such as host eSports events both offline and online for a gaming community which is rapidly growing in size. As eSports continue to increase in popularity, what used to be a gaming hobby will be elevated to a serious business, with the legal implications it entails. Game publishers, sponsors and entrepreneurs are seeking to invest in gamers who show promise and who are taking on eSports as a profession. Due to the fact that this area is still widely unregulated, there have been cases where individual gamers or small start-ups of gamers venturing the business professionally enter into legally binding contracts which do not safeguard their rights. This has led to abuses where there is no contractual stability and pivotal topics such as the expectations, rights and obligations of each party are not clearly designated, players are not paid and disciplinary matters and stakeholder disputes are not catered for in the contract. Moreover, issues such as doping and illegal betting pose threats and must be duly addressed.

ICT and Gaming in Sports Law

Online gaming encompasses fantasy sports, a sector which allows participants to assemble imaginary or virtual teams of players of a professional sport which compete based on the statistical performance of the player’s chosen professional players in actual games. As of 1st August 2016, this ingenious sector of gaming has been regulated through a legal notice which provides that Malta fantasy sports games operators do not require a remote gaming licence to operate their business.

Our Sports Law Practice

Our dynamic team of Gaming, IP and ICT lawyers are zealous about the enticing sector of sports law. Through our multi-faceted approach we are able to provide avant-garde sports law advice to business interested in establishing themselves within the sector and establish themselves in Malta. As a firm of choice in the sectors of IP, Gaming and ICT, we are eager to help you set up your sports related business and assist you with legal advice from the onset, thus saving you the hassle of entering into cumbersome legal complications and litigation if something goes wrong.

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Dr Priscilla Mifsud Parker

Senior Partner, Corporate, Tax & Immigration

+356 22056122

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