Dalton Myers | The importance of intellectual property protection
I recently interviewed attorney-at-Law Jason Haynes on The Drive Phase Podcast examining several issues, including intellectual property (IP) rights and sports in the Caribbean. Haynes was in Jamaica as part of the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office’s (JIPO) panel discussion and the launch of the book, Commonwealth Caribbean Sports Law. It all led me to reflect on various surrounding sports law in the Caribbean.
One of the points the Vincentian native Haynes mentioned was that many of our sportsmen and sportswomen in the Caribbean are not aware of the issues surrounding infringements on their IP and any resultant recourse from such infringement. This is even more important now as sports men and women from the Caribbean are taking advantage of opportunities made possible through the business of sport. There are several levels of IP infringements but, not many Caribbean athletes will take time out to examine these areas to see how they can benefit. The other challenge is that some of our sports personalities are not interested in learning about the sports world in general, and what they can do to generate more income from their respective discipline.
One of my concerns locally is that several corporate companies are not willing to invest in our sportspersons, but they infringe on the rights of these athletes by using their images for promotions or through congratulatory messages, which gives the impression that they received permission to use the athlete’s image or that they have a direct or indirect association with said athletes.
This brings me to another point. Sometimes athletes who need protection fall victim to individuals who can help, but instead they too end up infringing on the athletes’ rights and not helping enough. It is a pretty tricky dynamic, and as more money is pumped into sports, you will find more issues arising.
The problem legal personnel such as Haynes will mention is that in the Caribbean, we are not particularly litigious in this area; and in a small region like ours, any legal action is oftentimes viewed in an adversarial manner. It then forces the athlete to allow some of the infringements to go ahead without any action.
Just recently, I asked Facebook to remove false accounts for a few athletes I work with. In doing my research, I discovered fake social media accounts existed for other more popular athletes in Jamaica. You might find most athletes do not try to remove these accounts unless they start to post contentious or controversial content. Most athletes do not have a public relations specialist or social media manager either because they cannot afford one or choose not to for other reasons. They try to manage their own social media content but might not necessarily succeed in doing so in an advantageous way. Even worse, majority do not have a legal team that works to protect their online content or maximise on their image by seeking some sort of compensation for use of their image and trademark.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup and INF Netball World Cup are fast approaching; ICC Men’s World Cup is already under way. Very soon, you will be seeing a flood of content on traditional and new media using these athletes’ images without consent or compensation, which in some cases is very parasitical. It is difficult to prevent this, especially in our Caribbean space, but hopefully, this will change at some point.
What I like though is that generally, there is an increased effort to educate and support our athletes. In fact, there are now more athlete agents emanating from Jamaica and the region who are working closely with athletes to protect their IP rights. There is an increasing number of sport management individuals and companies now helping to develop our athletes with their professional life. However, we still have a far way to go. My hope is that we start introducing and educating our athletes early so they have a better understanding of what they can gain or lose based on their action or inaction. The sports world is moving at a fast pace and we need to catch on. Hopefully, soon more athletes will be working with JIPO to protect their intellectual property.
Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and administrator. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @daltonsmyers