NIGERIA today, 26th April, joins the rest of the world to commemorate the World Intellectual Property Day 2019. This is a day set aside by Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), to raise global awareness on the nature, contributions and importance of Intellectual Property (IP). The theme for this year is “Reach for Gold: IP and Sports”. It has been chosen to take a closer look inside the world of sports; the creative and innovative elements that sustain them; and how intellectual property – copyright, trade marks, patents and industrial designs – continues to improve the future of sports, guarantee return on investment and prosper this universal industry that has become a part of our daily life.

It is, therefore, with understandable delight that the Nigerian Copyright Commission joins the international community in this year’s celebrations. Nigeria occupies a unique place in the world of sports given its exploits and remarkable successes in various sporting events. On this occasion, we pay tribute to our talented youths, men and women whose sporting talents, particularly in football, boxing, weightlifting and athletics, continue to bring laurels and honour to the country.

Across national boundaries, the universal value of sports in today’s world is phenomenal. It has become a multi-billion-dollar global industry that creates employment, attracts investment and contributes to the growth of a whole chain of dependent industries. Major sporting events such as the World Cup, Olympics, Grand Slams, Formula One, and international golf tournaments command huge spectators and contribute as much as 2.5% to the GDP of many advanced economies.

Business relationships built on intellectual property rights help to secure the economic value of sports. It is estimated that intellectual property (particularly copyright) lies at the heart of the commercial exploitation of sports, contributing substantially to the growth of a community of players and fans whose net worth is over $300 billion. The use of intellectual property rights through branding, merchandising, licensing of live broadcasts and retransmission of sporting events, represents significant streams of income in that sector.

Sports in turn support numerous dependent businesses, including small and medium scale enterprises, by supplying the vehicles for product endorsements and brand optimisation. Brand owners seek to control their trade marks and other insignia which act as cognitive touch points for their customers. Innovations in the design of sports equipment have not only brought more colour and appeal to sports, but have also helped to boost allied and reliant industries. Today, sporting events are a major driver of fashion, entertainment, electronic games as well as the food and beverage industries.

Apart from ticket sales and sale of hospitality rights, the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa generated US$2.4 billion from the sale of broadcasting rights while the sale of marketing rights accounted for another US$1.1 billion.

Advancements in communication technologies like satellite, cable, broadband and mobile Internet have revolutionised sports coverage and enabled billions of people around the world to participate in major sporting events. With the advent of new technologies, the task of sports-related copyright has become more daunting. The expansion of high-speed Internet around the world, the proliferation of portable devices and the rise of online streaming platforms and IPTV technologies, have made tackling the illegal exploitation of rights much more difficult. Thousands of websites that illegally stream sporting and entertainment content in real time threaten the copyright in content.

For the full potentials of the sporting and associated industries to be realised, countries must put in place adequate, responsive and effective legal frameworks for the protection, administration and enforcement of rights. The intellectual property system, especially copyright, offers a practical and effective mechanism for achieving this. Copyright provides protection against unauthorised retransmission of broadcasts and underpins the relationship between sports, broadcasting and other media.

Responding to the need to modernise its copyright system and to better address emerging challenges, the Federal Executive Council recently approved a Draft Copyright Bill that is forward looking and better suited for the digital environment. As we mark this year’s World Intellectual Property Day, I invite stakeholders to continue to support Government in its determination to build a functional copyright system that would deliver the expected dividends to right owners and guarantee the sustainable development of sports and the copyright-related industries. As part of their social corporate responsibility, beneficiaries from the intellectual property system should also commit some of their earnings to rebuilding the infrastructure required to keep that system functional. More efforts should be made to enlighten the public, build capacity for better enforcement and provide appropriate business models that would discourage piracy and other copyright abuses. The Commission is prepared to collaborate with interested stakeholders to promote respect for intellectual property and complement Government’s commitment to growing human capital in today’s knowledge-driven economy.

On the occasion of this year’s World Intellectual Property Day, I join millions of Nigerians to again pay special tribute to our sporting heroes and commend the power of sports to unite us as a people and inspire us to dream, innovate and create. We salute the sports men and women who, through uncommon courage, resilience and sheer determination continue to inspire us to always reach for gold!

Thank you.