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Navigating the Complexities: The Intricate Relationship between Intellectual Property Rights and Cricket

By Kartik Tripathi


Cricket is a popular sport played in almost every country across the world. Since time immemorial, there have been evolving laws that have aimed to make the game better and more entertaining for the public. There are two aspects of cricket which predominantly exist. One aspect deal with all activities and happenings on the pitch. This consists of the game play of the players, the decisions of the empire, reaction of the crowd, etc. There is an evolving and growing as aspect as well which has to be focused upon off the pitch. This consists of broadcaster rights, player images rights, creative rights of teams, etc. This can be termed as the intellectual property aspect of the game. Due to the happenings on the pitch, the intellectual property viewpoint has often been ignored.

Changing Perspectives in IP and Cricket

There is a lot of limelight thrown on the game of cricket because of the players glamour and popularity. Further, it is also important to note that there has been a transitional phase which the game has gone through. There were a lot of aspects of the game that have evolved or have now been modified. A plethora of examples can be given for the same. One such example is the advent of the Decision Review System or DRS. This form of technology was introduced to increase the correctness of the decisions made by the on- field umpires. Not all on field decisions of an umpire are correct since humans are prone to making errors. The advent of DRS aimed on two facets of the game. Firstly, umpires would falsely give Leg Before Wicket (LBW) and secondly, a caught behind would not be given even when the ball nicked the bat and carried through to the wicket- keeper.

A change in law was required and the same was done by the International Cricket Council (ICC). A more recent innovation is the use of lightened wickets. This kind of technology was first used in 2014. It uses the LED technology to light the stumps and bails up when the ball comes in contact with the wickets. Historically, there was very little or negligible use of technology which was used in the game of cricket. The decisions of the umpires were final and binding on all players even if the replays suggested something else.

Contemporary Scenario

In the contemporary scenario, there has been a lot of off field focus on the game of cricket. This has been majorly influenced by the advent of multiple teams taking part in a variety of domestic cricket tournaments. The commercial aspect of cricket has increased in stature. This means that nowadays there is prevalence of commercial exploitation in cricket. Income and financial power have substantially influenced the game in an unexpected way. Apart from the ticket sales, there are many other sources of income for teams. This accumulates into a large sum of income for the respective teams. The link between the legislation about intellectual property rights and its consequences in the manufacture of athletic goods and equipment is an issue that has gained attention, particularly in the twenty-first century.

Sports have advanced significantly since the inaugural Olympic Games were staged in Greece in 1896. The advancement of science and technology has significantly impacted the growth of sports, particularly in producing athletic gear.  IP has been utilized in several contexts in cricket, such as broadcasting rights, logos, and emblems. Cricket IP also includes Geographical Indication (GI) tags and copyrights. 'English Willow' bats, derived from the Salix alba var tree, are an example of a well-known GI tag. This is an antique GI tag unique to the composition of the bat. Critics questioned the controversial 'Mongoose Bat' for its unorthodox design during the 1983 World Cup.

Laws, Legislations and Precedents

A few rules are in place to safeguard produced items and the accompanying procedures. The Trademark Act, the Patent Act, and the Copyright Act include provisions about the same. The World Intellectual Rights Organization oversees IP rules of business activities globally. Global IP law is also governed by the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) rules. The Patent Act clarifies "what are not inventions" in Section 3(m). 'Works in which Copyright subsists' are defined in Section 13 of the Copyright Act. The Trademark Act's Section 29(4) is the only section that discusses "infringement of a trademark." Additionally, issues have involved recognizing performers' rights, patenting sports equipment, and IP protection in sports. In Diamond v. Chakrabarty, a US court determined that "anything can be patented." This was a historic case since it included all entities, including patentable sports.

Since, it included the copyright of a yoga pose, the Inner Studies v. Charlotte Anderson case was intriguing. In this instance, the court determined that allowing a yoga pose's copyright protection would encourage anti-competitive behavior in sports. Sports-related intellectual property is likewise rife with the idea of trade secrets. Trade secrets are the manufacturing techniques used by certain businesses to produce things that are unique to that business. Many corporations adhere to this idea by maintaining the confidentiality of their customer list by standard IP legislation. Design is the most critical IP, right? As per the Designs Act, 2000, Section 2(d), "a design refers to features of shape, configuration, or pattern as applied to a particular product in two-dimensional, three-dimensional, or any other form." Section 5 of the Act provides a specific definition of the act of registering a design. Regarding cricket, limited-edition bats released by the BCCI or ICC for World Cups and the IPL may be registered as designs. An additional essential piece of intellectual property is the broadcasting rights for matches.

Recently, Jio Cinema App was granted digital rights to stream the Indian Premier League, even though Star Sports retained television broadcasting rights. The fact that the commenters on these two platforms used distinct terminology was an intriguing feature. Furthermore, the commentary languages and camera viewpoint were distinct. The "Broadcasting Reproduction Rights," outlined in Section 37 of the Copyrights Act, 1957, are the primary source of these rights.  A copyright is the final and most important component of intellectual property rights in cricket. "A copyright shall include any artistic, musical, or literary work either in a spoken or a written form," according to Section 14 of the Copyrights Act, 1957. This has a lot of cultural performances or events connected to cricket, which makes it quite significant. The official IPL Songs' melody and note arrangement are examples each year. Bob's Beat and Stand By are illustrations of the same. 


Sport and innovation can be put on one tangent due to the evolving nature of technology. Everyday there are new innovations not only in the field of science and technology but also in the field of sports. Whenever a new idea or suggestion is floated then it is imperative for that idea to be protected under the relevant intellectual property laws. Different countries have different set of rules and regulations that are to be followed. A majority of nations have ratified and adhere to the WIPO laws as well as to the TRIPS agreement. The Indian intellectual property laws are based on the TRIPS agreement. The more liberal laws of intellectual property make it easier for innovators to get the respective protection.

Apart from this innovator should also be aware of the surrounding innovations to avoid any kind or sort of conflict. From a sports law perspective, there has been a stricter application of intellectual property laws when it comes to the protection of technology, logos, symbols, etc. This is done in order to prevent the evasion of the rights of inventors and innovators. Adhering to the norms and established rules and regulations leads to encouragement among the scientific and sporting community to come up with more innovative thoughts and ideas.  

*The Author is a legal Scholar from India

(The Image used here is for representative purposes only)


1) Icc. (2023, November 7). About ICC Cricket | International Cricket Council. Icc.

 2)Lord’s. (2024, February 19). Leg before wicket Law.

3) Bhogle, C. (2022, January 21). How it’s made: The Zing Cricket Wicket with LED lights. Red Bull.

5)Orange, E. (2023, April 17). Why English cricket bat willow? - JS Wright & Sons. JS Wright & Sons.

6) Decathlon. (2019, December 16). What is a Mongoose bat, and where did it go?

7) Patent Act 1970, s 3 (m).

8) Copyright Act 1957, s 13.

9) Trademark Act 1999, s 29 (4).

10) Diamond v Chakrabarty [1980] 447 U.S. 303.

11) Inner Studies v Charlotte Anderson [2014] (57) PTC 228 (Del).

12) Designs Act 2000, s 2 (d).

13)Designs Act 2000, s 5.

14) Copyrights Act 1957, s 37.

15) Copyrights Act 1957, s 14.


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