The eSports sector is growing rapidly as illustrated by the following figures:
In 2017, the eSports economy grew to US-$696 million, a year-on-year growth of 41.3%.
Brands invested $517 million in 2017, which is expected to double by 2020.
Worldwide, the global eSports audience reached 385 million in 2017, with 191 million regular viewers.
North America continues to be the largest eSports market with revenues of US-$257 million. There is also continual development of eSports in Germany, however. The professional soccer teams of VfL Wolfsburg and FC Schalke 04 have their own eSports teams (http://www.gameswirtschaft.de/sport/esports-fussball-bundesliga/), and the German eSports Federation Deutschland has recently been founded, with the Federal Association of Interactive Entertainment Software (BIU) as a founding member (http://www.horizont.net/marketing/nachrichten/ESBD-E-Sport-Bund-Deutschland-geht-an-den-Start-162957).
In areas where such a lot of money can be made, legal obstacles are never far away. Here, they comprise a wide range of all kinds of different topics.
The initial focus is on copyrights and ancillary copyrights. Soccer stadiums, buildings, and avatars may enjoy copyright protection just as much as the computer program on which the games are based. Another item of discussion is whether eAthletes are to be classified as “performing artists” in accordance with Section 73 German Copyright Act. In addition, the question arises as to who enjoys ancillary copyrights under Section 81 Copyright Act as organizer of eSports events and whether such organizers have the same domiciliary rights as the organizers of a regular sports event.
In terms of trademark and design law, it will have to be discussed to what extent products and brand images represent infringements of the Trademark Act and the Design Act. In the case of brands and trademarks in particular, the question will be to what extent they are design objects or indications of origin.
Finally, there will also be regulatory issues that need to be observed. In addition to the use of cheatbots and doping substances, the main focus will be on the protection of minors and the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty with its advertising restrictions.
In conclusion, one suggestion: keep an eye on the eSports movement! Companies that want to stay ahead of the curve, should deal with the aforementioned issues and all further questions in timely manner.
The author of this post is Ilja Czernik.