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The Role of Intellectual Property in UEFA Euro 2024

The Role of Intellectual Property in UEFA Euro 2024

European News 26/06/2024

The beautiful game is back! With the UEFA Euro 2024 underway, excitement is reaching heightened anticipation for fans across the globe. But beyond the on-field action, there is a fascinating world of intellectual property (IP) that underpins the tournament. Let us delve into how patents, trade marks, and other forms of IP are shaping the modern Euro experience.

Goal-Line Technology and Beyond: Patented Innovations on the Pitch

The era of contentious calls decided solely by the human eye is fading. Technological advancements have significantly improved officiating accuracy in football, leading to fairer on-field decisions.

Hawk-Eye's Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system (WO 2001/041884 A1) utilizes sophisticated image processing technology. This allows referees to analyse video replays in detail, gaining crucial insights before making final calls.

Goal-Line Technology (GLT) is another innovation that has minimized human error in officiating. This technology, often employing high-speed cameras and advanced image recognition software, can instantaneously determine if the ball has fully crossed the goal line.

Euro 2024 serves as a platform for piloting even more advanced technologies that promise to further refine the officiating process:

  • Connected Ball Technology: Sensors embedded within the ball meticulously track its movement and provide data points, such as the exact moment of a kick. This information is instrumental for the next innovation – semi-automated offside calls.
    • Snickometer: A motion-sensing microchip has been placed in every Adidas ball that is being used at Euro 2024. Adapted from cricket, this technology uses a motion-sensing microchip embedded within the match ball. When a handball decision is under VAR review, the Snickometer graphic shows a frame-by-frame replay alongside a waveform. This waveform could indicate a spike if the ball contacted a player's hand, aiding referees in making more precise handball calls.

  • Semi-Automated Offside Technology: This system utilizes multiple tracking points on both players and the ball. It then creates a three-dimensional simulation to determine offside positions with greater accuracy and efficiency compared to traditional methods used in some leagues.

Ballinno vs UEFA - Patent Infringement Case

Just before the start of the UEFA Euro 2024, Dutch company Ballinno filed a patent infringement suit against UEFA due to unauthorized use of technology related to offside detection in VAR. Ballinno claims their European patent (EP 1 944 067) covers a method for detecting a contact with the ball using a sound signal, which is crucial for deciding offside calls. They sought a preliminary injunction to prevent UEFA from using the technology during Euro 2024, but the Unified Patent Court (UPC) denied the injunction in June 2024. This allowed UEFA to continue using VAR for the Euros.

It is important to note that UEFA itself might not hold the specific patent for this offside detection technology.

Gear Up Responsibly: Support Your Team and Intellectual Property

Cheering on your national team at Euro 2024 can be even more exciting when you are decked out in their official colours. But remember - jerseys, hats, scarves, and other memorabilia may be protected by trade marks, design rights and copyright owned by UEFA or licensed partners.

Choosing official merchandise guarantees you are getting authentic, high-quality gear that directly supports the tournament and your team. Counterfeits may not only infringe on intellectual property rights, but can be poorly made and potentially unsafe. Worldwide enforcement efforts regularly seize counterfeit goods, with football shirts a common target. By opting for official merchandise, you are not just displaying your team spirit, you are making a responsible choice that supports both the sport and intellectual property rights.

The Global IP Landscape: Challenges and Opportunities

The global nature of football presents unique challenges regarding IP protection. Counterfeiting of jerseys, merchandise, and even digital assets like online game characters is a persistent issue. Robust international cooperation between enforcement agencies and IP offices is crucial to combat this.

According to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), counterfeit sports equipment costs manufacturers a staggering €851 million annually within the EU alone.

From the EUIPO: The impact of these counterfeit sales in the EU is substantial, causing an estimated total loss of €851 million annually – equivalent to 11% of the total sales in the sector – according to EUIPO calculations. France, Austria, and the Netherlands experience the highest monetary losses, amounting to hundreds of millions of euros each. In terms of proportional impact, Romania, Lithuania, and Hungary suffer the most, with counterfeit sports equipment accounting for up to 20% of total lost sales in each country.

Furthermore, the EUIPO's studies suggest that fake goods also pose significant health risks due to non-compliance with safety standards and environmental protection standards as indicated by the EUIPO and OECD study on dangerous goods.

However, the global market also presents exciting opportunities. Strategic partnerships and licensing agreements can allow innovative technologies developed in one nation to be adopted and improved upon by others, accelerating the pace of progress in the sport.

Beyond the Euros: The Long Game of Innovation

UEFA Euro 2024 serves as a showcase for the innovative advancements shaping modern football. However, innovation in the sport is a continuous process. Ongoing research and development in areas like biomechanics, materials science, and artificial intelligence promise to revolutionize training methods, equipment design, and even match officiating in the years to come.

Elevate Sports Equipment Innovations with Secerna

Partner with Secerna to use our specialised knowledge in Sports Equipment Design and Manufacture. From protection strategies to infringement advice, we are committed to propelling your Sports Equipment innovations forward.

Please contact us for a complimentary 1-hour consultation to discover how Secerna can tailor its expertise to meet your unique challenges.