At the beginning of June, a much-delayed bill was signed into law, the so-called World Cup law. Although the lack of restrictions on the sale of alcohol in stadiums is the most visibly controversial aspect of the new Law 12,663/2012, the statute has other major implications – in the field of intellectual property.

The issue of alcohol sales has been causing much discussion because, on the one hand, a ban on alcoholic drinks in stadiums is enshrined in the legislation of certain states where the World Cup matches will be played, but, on the other hand, a beer brewer is a sponsorfor the International Federation of Association Football, commonly known as FIFA. (Another controversy is the limit on half-price tickets that will be made available for students and pensioners, a move being justified on the basis of the potential impact on revenues.)

With respect to intellectual property, specialists are criticizing certain privileges assured by the statute for FIFA, a private entity. The law provides a high standard of protection for the association’s intellectual property assets. The Brazilian Patent and Trademark Office (INPI) will be required to:

  • • Register FIFA’s trademarks, logos, and designs as famous and/or well-known marks without requesting substantiation from the Association
  • • Inform the Brazilian domain name registry authority (NIC.br) about FIFA’s marks in order to avoid, ex officio, the registration of domain names bearing similar terms
  • • Set up a special fast-track registration process for FIFA’s marks, with shorter concession deadlines and exemption from official fees
  • • Reject, ex officio, any trademark application that is similar to FIFA’s marks or that may cause confusion

Despite the controversy, this is becoming common practice for major sports events, as the following special laws attest:

  • • Sydney 2000 Games (Indicia and Images) Protection Act 1996, for the 2000 Olympic Games
  • • Major Events Management Act of 2007, for the 2011 Rugby World Cup
  • • 2006 London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act, for the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games
  • • Olympic Act (Law 12,035/2009), for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

All those statutes aim at protecting organizers and official sponsors’ exclusive rights, preventing ambush marketing, and safeguarding official symbols and marks and other intellectual property assets. They are expected to deal with the increasing number of violations, misuses of, and crimes relating to official marks and symbols.

The new World Cup law itemizes those crimes, lists civil torts in connection with the World Cup, creates commercial restrictions for the areas surrounding stadiums and access roads, and strictly regulates the recording and broadcasting of images of matches and related events.

As one of the main income sources for FIFA, the broadcast rights and limits for use of images were thoroughly discussed. In the end, FIFA agreed to adapt its initial draft – which would have prohibited any use of the event’s images by non-licensed companies – in order to make a recompilation of images available up to two hours after the end of each match or event, limiting the use of such images to journalistic purposes and permitting up to 30 seconds for any event controlled by FIFA and up to 3 percent of the whole for soccer matches.

Other stakeholders, such as the Brazilian Intellectual Property Association (ABPI), although resistant to certain aspects of the new law, believe it is a good initiative and agree that it may help to prevent abusive practices with respect to intellectual property assets.

Without disregarding the large number of applications and requests that INPI deals with daily, it is not yet possible to assess the real impact and enforceability of the recently enacted legislation in a country of continental proportions like Brazil.

Rafael Vazquez