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Why Esports Organizations Should Guard their Intellectual Property

April 3, 2023 World Sports

Organizations must safeguard their intellectual property (IP) rights now more than ever because the esports business is constantly changing.

IP rights, such as trade secrets, copyrights, designs, and patent registrations, underpin the esports business by nature. These rights safeguard intangible assets, which are frequently the basis for an organization’s identity and income, such as brand names, logos, and unique material.

Kosnahan Law, an Isle of Man-based law company, explained to Esports Insider why IP protection is essential for the esports sector.

1. Protecting brand names
To distinguish out in a congested market, esports organizations make significant investments in developing distinctive brand identities. The name, logo, motto, and other visual components used to represent an organization are all included in its brand identity. The name of the organization will be used by casters, streamers, and fans alike in the domain name, on the website, and throughout all social media outlets. Commercially speaking, the name appears on team uniforms and jerseys, in sponsorship agreements, and it will be licensed to other parties.

Thus, it is crucial to register trade marks in order to safeguard brand components. It serves as the organization’s initial point of contact with supporters, sponsors, and even potential investors.

A trade mark is a sort of intellectual property that consists of a recognizable term, sign, or emblem that identifies a good or service as coming from a specific source while also serving to set the owner apart from competitors.

The process of registering a trademark is not as difficult or expensive as it may first appear. Nonetheless, it does grant an organization the only right to utilize the name, logo, and other distinguishing characteristics. This guarantees defense against possible infringers or copycats and, if necessary, gives the right to pursue legal action to stop trade mark infringement.

These violations can occur in a number of ways in the esports industry. Fake merchandise (merch), phony websites (including domain registration), and even fraudulent social media accounts are examples.

One organization that has taken steps to safeguard its reputation is the European esports group Ninjas in Pyjamas. In three different categories of goods and services, it has secured EU protection for its mark (24, 28 and 41). Also, it has a word mark that is protected in the EU, Asia, and the USA.

Independent broadcasters, casters, and community gaming venues are given particular consideration for trade mark protection. Imagine being the first venue in a city and then having the entire concept of the venue stolen by someone else. In a different UK city where growth ideas were explored, the brand-new facility opens under the same name. When such circumstances arise, owning Intellectual rights can assist assure that they will be handled.

Trademarks in the UK are protected under the Trade Marks Act of 1994, and are formally registered with the Intellectual Property Office.

Notwithstanding the advantages, Jason Kelly, founder of Kosnahan Law, asserts that not all companies appropriately protect their brands: “There are clearly a handful of well-known companies within the UK and EU marketplaces who do not now protect their brands effectively. This can be the result of false assumptions about the costs and advantages. Organizations have also attempted to safeguard their own intellectual property, but ultimately failed to do so for the proper kinds of products and services or in the appropriate areas.

2. Safeguarding Designs
Businesses in the esports industry are active in the peripheral market in addition to brand protection. This involves creating quicker gaming mice, custom keyboards, and many other things.

While trade marks are significant in the peripherals industry, design registrations can also help to protect something novel. Design registrations are reasonably priced, and in the UK, this type of protection helps deter copycats as well as exploitation through licensing agreements for exclusive rights to distribute and profit.

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 governs copyright, patents, and designs in the UK.

“Great products deserve protection,” Kelly declared. It’s more crucial than ever to think about preserving original concepts as more businesses enter the esports peripherals market with genuinely awesome goods.

3. Keeping trade secrets safe
Trade secrets are simply the confidential information that a company keeps to obtain a competitive edge. Trade secrets in esports may include player scouting information, sponsorship agreements, and game strategies.

Protecting trade secrets helps prevent employees or partners from exposing critical information to competitors, or exploiting it for personal advantage. For esports organizations, there are numerous circumstances that could result in the disclosure of trade secrets. This covers crucial conversations about sponsorship, license agreements, and changes to the player roster and staff.

Contracts frequently include clauses pertaining to sensitive information in situations involving employment or player transfers. In other circumstances, though, it’s less obvious. In light of this, it should be made as simple as feasible. Protecting confidential information ought to come first in any commercial conversation, Kelly said. The simplest way to restrict access to sensitive information is to have good non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in place and make sure they are signed before any business conversations.

Time to move
For the esports sector, protecting trademarks and other intellectual property is crucial. Businesses and organizations need to think about their position and the level of security needed. Brand identity is safeguarded by trademark registration, original designs are protected by design registration, and private information is protected by NDAs.

The founder of Kosnahan Law asserts that, despite the state of the economy and a decline in the value of sponsorship in the esports sector, “IP protection has never been more important.”

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