Copyrights for signage and complex objects at FIFA-2018 World Cup


PhD, Associate Professor E.S. Grin
O.E. Kutafin Moscow State Law University, Moscow

Keywords: sports, football, 2018 FIFA World Cup, intellectual property, trademarks, exclusive copyright, complex objects, audio-video products.

Background. The matters of intellectual property rights protection and regulation in modern sports are being in special priority in the global sport system. Hosts and organizers of the Olympic Games, World Championships and other top-ranking sport events apply and protect a variety of protected intellectual products including trademarks, brands, logotypes, music records, special athletic outfits, souvenirs for spectators etc.

Objective of the study was to anlayze the situation with the legal protection of and usage regulations for the signage and complex intellectual objects created for application in sport events including the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Study results and discussion. In the preparations for and management of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and FIFA-2017 Confederations Cup hosted by the Russian Federation, a set of special copyright protection provisions was introduced into the local legislation. 

The Federal Law “On the preparations for and management of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and FIFA-2017 Confederations Cup in the Russian Federation and the relevant changes and amendments to the legal provisions of the Russian Federation” [6] requires that the Federal Intellectual Property Service Agency (hereinafter referred to as the RosPatent) should set forth special provisions for the pre-season and regular season periods to facilitate registration and promotion of the FIFA trademarks; registration of the copyrights and the relevant individual versions of the signage applied at the events; with the special expedited formats for the application processing by the RosPatent and legal actions thereof.

Thus, in contrast to the traditional trademark registration procedure that may take up to one year and even more, the registration and licensing procedures in the period of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and FIFA-2017 Confederations Cup will be restricted by 20 days following the date of the trademark registration duty being paid. The trademark license will be due within 20 days upon the date of the trademark registration with the State Register of Trademarks and Service Signage of the Russian Federation [3].

The key intellectual products applied for the purposes of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and FIFA-2017 Confederations Cup will be used in the signage for these events including: FIFA banner, logo, anthem and motto; formal titles and abbreviations of the entities and events such as FIFA-2017, FIFA‑2018, Russia‑2017, Russia‑2018 etc. including associated words, expressions and combinations thereof with reference to the term ‘football’ or otherwise associated with the latter sport discipline and/or event. The same applies to the legally protected intellectual products including brands, logos and emblems of events such as expressions “Football for hope”, “Green Goal” etc. and other FIFA trademarks, posters, event titles, items of special designs, event mottos, cups, medals etc. designed by the FIFA for formal application in the events, with the FIFA having exclusive rights for the above.

A special priority in the signage will be given to the event talismans including Zabivaka Wolf, the formally registered trademark symbolizing the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The rights for the associating items applied in the events including the items designed by the FIFA for the formal use at the event and protected by the FIFA exclusive copyrights shall be subject to the copyright protection [1].

The exclusive copyright for the signage qualified as the intellectual product made for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and FIFA-2017 Confederations Cup and subject to the FIFA exclusive copyright requires the protected items to be used only on consent of the FIFA or its authorized entities subject to the governmental registration as provided by the relevant Federal Law.

Therefore, any use of the 2018 FIFA World Cup and FIFA-2017 Confederations Cup signage in violation of this article is deemed illegal and punishable as provided by the Russian Federation legislation, with the copyrights for the signage and symbols of the events fully protected by the relevant provisions of the Civil Code of the RF Article 1252, with the copyright holders entitled to claim remuneration for their right infringement, followed by the relevant counterfeit items being confiscated and destroyed.

In addition, the law protects the event signage by a special provision that applies to any intellectual property that includes the event signage (applicable for the pre-event signage), with the protection effective in the period of June 7, 2013 to December 31, 2018 (Article 19 item 2 of the law).

It should be noted that the modern sport entities and sport events widely use the so called complex objects or composite intellectual products also protected by copyrights including audio and video products, theatrical performances, entertainments, shows etc. The complex audio products may include online broadcasts and replays of sport events etc. The theatrical/ entertainment performances may include, for instance, opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games and similar events including theatrical shows, musicals etc.

The televised or online football broadcasting or replay service is also qualified a complex object protected by the relevant copyright(s). It should be noted that the football broadcasting service is subject to the most frequent and acute disputes and conflicts.

It was found in one of the legal cases, for instance, that the National Sport Channel Ltd. as the cable and aerial broadcasting service provider and exclusive copyright holder for the UEFA Football League matches in the seasons of 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 in Russia was fully entitled to apply any audio and video capturing and broadcasting equipment based on the License of March 32, 2016 covering the media rights of the UEFA Football League in the seasons of 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18 and the Rights Delegation Agreement of September 27, 2016 formed with the licensing entity Union Des Association Europeennes De Football.

The above corporate rights were infringed when the programs featuring the UEFA Football League matches in the seasons of 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 were uploaded to website for a free access online. The illegal content was removed from the website after a complaint [4]. In one more legal case, the court decided that the website administration violated an exclusive copyright of the relevant TV channel for broadcasts of the relevant content [5]. Apart of these and other cases, it is not unusual that the copyrights for complex objects and the relevant asset management relationship with concern to the protected complex objects are subject to disputes.

Many foreign legal experts give special attention to and specialize in the copyright protection in sports on the whole and football in particular [6]. Thus, the sport event capturing copyrights, in opinion of the foreign experts, are the key for their legitimate use [7], with the following so-called image rights of each football player being subject to special protection: last and first name, patronymic, appearance, nickname, individual gesture(s), autograph, individual movement pattern(s) associated with the player only, individual motto etc. [8]. Some of the player’s transfer contracts reached by the football clubs make special provisions for the image rights handovers or shares of the individual and club incomes from such image rights [1].

Conclusion. The study data give the grounds to conclude that special efforts need to be taken by sport event organizers in the copyright management domain to prevent violations of the lawful interests of the copyright holders.

The study was sponsored by Presidential Grant #МК-153.2017.6 for the young Russian PhDs.


  1. Grin E.S. Intellektualnaya sobstvennost v sporte: osobennosti ispolzovaniya tovarnykh znakov [Intellectual property in sports: trademarks use features]. Teoriya i praktika fiz. kultury, 2006, no. 7, pp. 102-104.
  2. Ponkin I.V., Redkina A.I. Pravo intellektualnoy sobstvennosti v sfere futbola [Intellectual property rights in football sector]. Avtorskoe pravo i smezhnye prava, 2017, no. 5, pp. 7-14; no. 6, pp. 7-14.
  3. Prikaz Rospatenta ot 05.04.2016 no. 49 ‘Ob ustanovlenii osobennostey registratsii tovarnykh znakov FIFA, priznaniya tovarnykh znakov FIFA obscheizvestnyimi v Rossiyskoy Federatsii, registratsii predostavleniya prava ispolzovaniya rezultatov intellektualnoy deyatelnosti i sredstv individualizatsii, otnosyaschihsya k simvolike chempionata mira po futbolu FIFA 2018 goda i Kubka konfederatsiy FIFA 2017 goda, a takzhe sokraschennogo sroka rassmotreniya obrascheniy FIFA v Federalnuyu sluzhbu po intellektualnoy sobstvennosti v period podgotovki i provedeniya ukazannykh sportivnykh sorevnovaniy’ [Order of Rospatent dated 04/05/2016 no. 49 'On establishing the specifics of registration of FIFA trademarks, recognition of FIFA trademarks as generally known in the RF, registration of granting the right to use the results of intellectual activity and means of individualization relating to the symbols of the FIFA 2018, FIFA World Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup 2017, term of consideration of applications of FIFA to the Federal Service for Intellectual Property in the period of preparation for and staging of the specified sports competitions']. SPS ‘ConsultantPlus’.
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  5. Reshenie Moskovskogo gorodskogo suda ot 29.12.2016 po delu N 3-1237/2016 [Decision of the Moscow City Court of 29.12.2016 on the case No. 3-1237 / 2016]. SPS 'ConsultantPlus'.
  6. Federalny zakon ot 07.06.2013 no. 108-FZ (red. ot 29.12.2017) «O podgotovke i provedenii v Rossiyskoy Federatsii chempionata mira po futbolu FIFA 2018 goda, Kubka konfederatsiy FIFA 2017 goda i vnesenii izmeneniy v otdelnye zakonodatelnye akti Rossiyskoy Federatsii» [Federal Law 07/06/2013 no. 108-FZ (am. December 29, 2017) "On preparation and staging in the Russian Federation of FIFA 2018, FIFA World Cup, FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 and amendments to certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation"]. SPS 'ConsultantPlus'.
  7. Hylton J.G. The over-protection of intellectual property rights in sport //
  8. Futre D., George C., Coathup R. Players' image management in the UK football industry //

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The study considers a variety of the most challenging copyright issues in modern sports, with an emphasis on the copyright for structures designed for sport events on the whole and the 2018 FIFA World Cup in particular. The author analyzes a variety of the relevant issues that have come up in the judicial practice, with the relevant international regulatory and dispute-settlement experience. The copyright issues under the 2018 FIFA World Cup and 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup are related to the signage applied at the events. Subject to a special legal protection shall also be the related copyrights for the other items applied at the sport events and the items designed by the FIFA for official application in the relevant events and covered by the FIFA exclusive copyright. The signage subject to the exclusive FIFA copyright including those applied at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and FIFA-2017 Confederations Cup may be used only on consent of the FIFA and/or its authorized bodies, conditional on the state registration as required by the relevant Federal laws.

The study data give the grounds to conclude that special efforts need to be taken by the sport event organizers in the copyright management domain to prevent violations of the lawful interests of the intellectual property holders.