eSports

esports & Digital Entertainment

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. A transition period, during which EU laws continue to apply in the UK, is due to end on 31 December 2020. The UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement sets out transitional arrangements and negotiations for the future UK/EU relationship are ongoing.

The esports and digital entertainment industry continues to change, grow and mature with relentless speed. The need for legal advice that can keep pace and assure commercial success is paramount.

We have a dedicated esports and interactive entertainment team qualified to do just this. Drawn from our specialist lawyers in Sport, Intellectual Property, Reputation Protection and Betting and Gaming, we provide the necessary, agile and bespoke cross-departmental advice.

We bring a unique perspective to the advice we can offer because in a short space of time we already have contentious and non-contentious experience with individuals, teams, publishers and other interested commercial parties. This experience has been further harnessed through our attendance alongside our clients at several of the major international esports tournaments. It means that we have been on all sides of the conversation and understand the unique nature of the industry, and in particular, what our clients are trying to achieve.

Given our experience, we know how to protect our clients against potential regulatory and commercial pitfalls while at the same time maximise their opportunities in areas such as regulatory governance, licensing and brand protection.

Mishcon de Reya has one of the strongest Betting & Gaming teams in the UK. We have acted for some of the largest operators, games and software developers, publishers and regulatory bodies for over 20 years. We advise on the legal and regulatory considerations surrounding competitive gaming, in particular with regard to the critical intersection between gaming and regulated gambling. We also advise on issues relating to virtual currency, skill gaming, social games, skins betting and the licensing and regulation of esports betting sites.

Our Sports Law Group is known in the industry as being one of the fastest growing and substantial sports practices in London. The sports work we do is wide ranging. We advise in core areas, such as sports dispute resolution and sports arbitration, disciplinary cases, governance and compliance, regulation, sports integrity and sponsorship, as well as commercial matters affecting sporting individuals, agents, clubs and governing bodies. The skills and services of this group are equally applicable and relevant in esports as they are in sports.

We have one of the largest independent intellectual property groups in the UK, delivering a complete range of services to help our clients create, protect and exploit their IP throughout its life cycle, whether in the UK or globally.

We devise copyright protection strategies in relation to literary and artistic works (including software), sound recordings, film and TV, and our team of advisory and transactional lawyers assist clients in agreements for the licensing, sale, distribution and purchase of copyright material. We also assist with planning and financing the marketing of games, music rights in video games, data protection, age ratings and use of virtual currency in games.

We ensure that our clients have the widest scope of protection for their intellectual property, but are also prepared to quickly enforce it should it be infringed. For example, we regularly advise multi-national technology and software companies on copyright and trade mark infringement actions and ownership disputes.

Our trade mark and design management practice works in tandem with our IP litigation and commercial teams, to ensure that the rights of our clients are fully protected and ready for commercial exploitation.

We recently launched MDR Brand Management, a consultancy business which helps companies manage their brands and develop strategic high-profile brand extension programmes on a global, regional and local level.

We devise global anti-counterfeiting and piracy programmes, alongside international action against parallel imports and grey market goods.

In particular, we have created a “pioneering anti-counterfeiting programme” (Financial Times), Mishcon Tulip ® (Turning Losses into Profits), the first ever product devised by a law firm to combat the multi-million dollar industry of international counterfeiting and other IP theft. Our IP, Fraud & Asset Recovery and Business Crime teams ensure that all potential tools are available to the brand owners.

Our team works in both prosecution and defence. Whether an individual or company has been accused of improper financial conduct or is the victim of fraud, we can address all aspects of the case: civil, regulatory and criminal.

Our Private Prosecutions team is able to call upon the experience of three former senior Crown Prosecutors who are all advocates with higher rights of audience.

Private prosecutions are being used increasingly by rights holders, which means that it is no longer just the police and other state authorities investigating and prosecuting these crimes and that those who break IP law and commit fraud can be held to account. This will be particularly relevant where, for example, esports organisers and production companies exploit IP of third party gaming companies.

We have a long history of advising high net worth private individuals on a number of sensitive issues which include being contacted, harassed or defamed by the press, being attacked in online forums or on social media, being blackmailed with the threat of releasing private information or images. We also have significant experience of managing reputational issues for companies, for example where they face negative campaigns by the press and the political arena. As litigators we are both robust and resolute, but we do not take action as a first resort.

We also help our clients prevent unlawful damage and unwarranted attacks to reputation. Working closely with brand and communications experts as well as digital and business strategy consultants, we examine the big picture, starting with a full audit of our clients' current personal or corporate reputational situation. Protection will increasingly be required in the esports market, for example, where a gaming company is connected with a tournament that is unsuccessful or with a rogue third party merchandiser.

We provide independent oversight and assurance of our clients' current cyber maturity, reviewing the governance and management of cyber risk, the technical and procedural controls used to protect data and systems as well as their readiness to respond to an incident. We also provide a benchmark of our clients' cyber maturity against their peers.

Our team of Data Theft specialists have 15 years’ experience advising on and litigating large and high profile data theft cases. We regularly obtain the most powerful Court Orders available to protect our clients’ businesses. We act fast. Depending on the nature and scale of the problem, injunctions can be obtained in hours, days or weeks.

Given the digital world we live in and the multitude of ways data is now processed, we believe that a comprehensive solution to the challenges presented by GDPR calls for a hybrid legal and technical analysis. The exploitation of data in a lawful way is crucial for the success of many companies involved in the esports and digital entertainment industries.

With this in mind, we have developed a GDPR product that is the result of collaboration between our dedicated in-house cyber security team and our data protection experts. Our approach involves reviewing policy, data mapping and gap analysis; implementation and embedding of new policies and procedures both in data protection and cyber security; and training employees and ongoing support for those tasked with GDPR compliance.

Combining legal and technological expertise in this way ensures regulatory compliance, and helps add value to our clients' business, protect their customers and employees and build trust in their brand.

The lawyers in our Commercial group handle both contentious and non-contentious work. This means that we are able to draw on commercial and litigation expertise when drafting contracts. We are very conscious of our clients' needs to weigh the risks of doing business with returns on their investments.

We provide advice on the full range of brand and IP contract services ranging from franchising, complex multi-party collaboration and licensing agreements, agency and distribution agreements to sponsorship, marketing and merchandising agreements. We can also advise on a range of tech-related commercial agreements, including software and other technology development agreements, implementation agreements and online contracts. Our corporate/commercial team also advises on local and global prize promotions.

The esports ecosystem spans a broad range of areas which offer M&A and investment opportunities for companies to expand, promote brand recognition or simply tap into the growing revenues from online advertising, sponsorship and media rights.

Our 70 strong Corporate team advises private and public companies on a raft of matters including company sales and purchases, mergers, recommended takeovers, joint ventures, private equity transactions, restructurings and shareholder agreements.  We help our clients identify opportunities, initiate negotiations and then guide them through the process to a successful transaction. For us it is about far more than just “doing the deal”. It is about forging a relationship in which we are advisors and partners, not just lawyers.

Competition law issues (such as restrictive agreements and abuses of dominant position) often impact the esports sector. On the commercial side of the business, competition law needs to be considered in respect of exclusivity deals, for example with media companies and in merchandising arrangements. On corporate transactions, it may be that merger approval is required at a UK or EU level in order for a merger to proceed. Our Competition Law group advise on a number of key matters relevant to esports, including the interplay between IP rights and competition law, and on UK and EU merger control.

Our Immigration team has extensive contacts throughout the Immigration and Nationality Services in the UK, and within visa issuing posts overseas, and as such are able to obtain exceptional and expeditious results for our clients. We assist our UK corporate clients expand their international footprint and employee mobility outside of the UK by working with our preferred local contacts in each jurisdiction. The Immigration team provides advice to many international businesses, financial organisations including multi-national gaming companies. This specialism is particularly relevant to individual esports players and businesses, as it is to sports players and businesses.

We have one of the largest employment departments in the UK advising on the full spectrum of contentious and non-contentious employment law including on restrictive covenants and team moves. We have the expertise necessary to draft and advise on restrictive covenants, and have significant experience in bringing and defending unfair competition actions on behalf of both employers and employees, using specialist injunctive proceedings where necessary. Similar covenants apply to the management and protection against players moving between esports teams.

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