KINGSTON, Jamaica – Jamaica’s athletes are being encouraged to register their images and trademarks with the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO), in order to protect themselves from exploitation by opportunists seeking to cash in on their outstanding achievements.
Deputy Executive Director and Legal Counsel of JIPO, Ms. Lilyclaire Bellamy, told journalists at a media briefing at the Police Officers’ Club, on Hope Road, St. Andrew, on August 25, that the agency’s efforts to this end were precipitated by the receipt of a number of applications from persons for the registration of trademarks, images and other symbols associated with the athletes, who are not “directly connected” to them.
This scenario, she pointed out, first resonated with the athletes’ success in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and has continued in the wake of the recently concluded 12th International Association of Athletics Associations (IAAF) World Athletic Championships in Berlin, Germany.
Ms. Lilyclaire Bellamy, Deputy Executive Director and Legal Counsel of the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO)
“What we got after Beijing, especially, and continuing now, is that people came and had different forms of products. These were people outside of the (Jamaican) jurisdiction, it wasn’t only Jamaicans who were trying. Persons from all over the world were trying to protect athletes’ merchandise,” she said.
“So, we exercised our discretion and examined the applications very carefully to see whether they were legitimate or not. We decided, as an intellectual property office, and a part of the Government of Jamaica, that we didn’t think it was prudent to have others benefitting from something that really wasn’t theirs,” Ms. Bellamy added.
Further to this, she said JIPO encouraged the athletes to take the necessary steps to protect themselves by registering their images and trademarks with the agency, informing that, “some of the athletes accepted, and they have registered. We’re still waiting on some of the others.” She disclosed that triple Olympic and World champion and record holder, Usain Bolt, is one of those who have responded positively.
The message, which she said JIPO wants to drive home to the athletes, is that while they may be doing well in their respective disciplines currently, they would be central attractions in years to come. As such, they should take the necessary steps now to protect their interests. She alluded to former Point Guard with National Basketball Association (NBA) franchises – Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards, in the United States – Michael ‘Air’ Jordan, who still earns royalties from merchandise sold, bearing his image and trademarks, despite being retired from the sport.
“Even after you have stopped being an active participant, you can still benefit. That’s the message we’re really trying to get across to the athletes and their management. So, we have been having discussions with members of the management team of some of the athletes,” Ms. Bellamy added.
The JIPO was established in January 2001, out of recognition by the Government of the need to streamline, modernise and provide a focal point for the administration of both Industrial Property and Copyright and Related Rights, in order for it to fulfill its bilateral and multilateral obligations in the field of Intellectual Property (IP).