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Intellectual property

Intellectual property, or intangible assets such as copyrights, trademarks, patents and rights, has become a source of significant value to sporting clubs and organisations.

Assets such as a sport’s name (eg. Surf Life Saving Australia), teams (eg. Sydney Swans) and events (eg. Australian Open) and their logos, colours and emblems hold commercial value and are essential components of branding and merchandising programs.

With the growth of commercialisation of sport, clubs and associations need to understand the basic concepts of intellectual property so they can develop, protect and exploit their assets.

Intellectual property rights exist in:


A trademark can be a word, phrase, letter, number, sound, smell, shape, logo, picture that is used to distinguish the goods and services of one organisation from those of another.

Examples: name of event, logo, mascot.

A registered trademark gives you the exclusive right to use, license or sell it within Australia for the goods and services for which it is registered. Your club or association could register trademarks in names, logos, shapes, images and other distinctive elements.


Copyright exists in an ‘original literary work’ and happens automatically when the work is created. The creator owns the copyright, unless commissioned by another, until they assign or license their rights to another individual or company.

Copyright might be used to protect:

  • recorded visual images or commentaries of sports events
  • photographs of events, teams and athletes
  • rule books, reports and other materials used in the administration and promotion of sport
  • fixtures
  • programs
  • published results
  • computer programs.


A copyright notice does not need to be on something before it is protected by copyright but does serve to notify people that the work may be protected and identifies the person claiming the rights. Owners of copyright can put the notice on their work themselves. The notice usually consists of the symbol © followed by the name of the copyright owner and the year of first publication. For example: © NSW Sport and Recreation, 2006.

Copyright infringement

A person infringes a copyright, if, not being the owner of the copyright, and without the licence or authority to do so, they do an act that compromises the copyright. For example your club publishes a photo in the newsletter without seeking permission from the owner or copyright holder.


Registration of a design gives the owner protection for the visual appearance of the product, not how it works. To be registrable, a design must be new or original.

Examples: merchandise, bicycles, football boots or cricket bats.

Useful links

Other websites

  • IP Australia - find out more about intellectual property rights in Australia including trademark, copyright and design issues
  • Australian Copyright Council - independent not for profit organisation that has comprehensive information about copyright issues.
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