Sports fans around the world have been amazed by the achievements of the athletes who have participated in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. In previous issues, WIPO Magazine has offered a plethora of perspectives on the importance of IP for different sports organizations. This article studies the importance of IP protection from the perspective of the sporting goods industry.
The sports industry is a very broad business that ranges from the sale of food and sports souvenirs to the sale of broadcasting rights and sponsorship agreements. In this industry, there are numerous stakeholders, from clubs, leagues, and sponsors to broadcasters and, of course, the manufacturers of equipment that make high-level sport possible: the sporting goods industry. According to a study by the consulting firm AT Kearny, it is estimated that the value of the global sports industry reaches the US $ 620 billion.
Sporting goods companies, both large and small, spend millions of dollars each year to develop new and improved products not only for the benefit of elite athletes but also for fans and people who like to wear footwear and clothing Comfortable sports daily. Many of these companies also invest large sums of money to support young talented athletes in communities around the world; young people who promise to become the sporting heroes of the future. The IP system and the protection it grants play a fundamental role in allowing sporting goods manufacturers to continue investing in the research and creation of more efficient and affordable equipment for today’s and tomorrow’s athletes.
The technological career
Virtually all sports have benefited from the advances that materials and engineering processes have experienced. The natural materials (wood, string, gut, rubber) used in the manufacture of the equipment of yesteryear have been progressively replaced by a wide range of very sophisticated synthetic materials, such as alloys and polymers. Equipment made with these lighter and more durable materials has allowed athletes around the world to minimize injuries and exceed the limits of their performance.
The German businessman Adolf “Adi” Dassler, founder of Adidas, was one of the first to successfully market a technologically improved sports article by manufacturing an innovative football boot with a lightweight nylon sole and thread studs. With these boots, the German team won the victory against Hungary in the final of the 1954 World Cup in Bern (Switzerland). Due to the heavy rains, the terrain was very slippery, so the German team chose to use Adi Dassler’s innovative boots. Their longer heels improved the players’ grip, allowing them greater control of the ball, an advantage that helped them win the game.
Since then, the advances in the design of sports shoes have been spectacular thanks to a significant investment in research and development (R&D). Today, the main manufacturers of sporting goods, such as Nike, Puma, Asics, and others, allocate more than one% of their annual sales volume to R&D.
In the (jealously guarded) high-tech testing laboratories, equipped with the latest advances, sports brands work closely with elite athletes, where they measure and record their movements in order to develop equipment for optimal performance. Some even have facilities specifically designed to develop and test equipment under various conditions. Aqualab, the world center for research and development of Speedo.