Tuesday, June 26, 2012

London 2012 Olympic Games and Protection of Olympic Properties: Trademark Laws and Restrictions on Commercial Use of Olympic Symbols

Marianne Chappuis, Trademark Legal Counsel of the International Olympic Committee has a June, 2012 article at WIPO Magazine, IP and Sport, titled The Olympic Properties (June 2012) in which "Olympic properties" are defined as follows:
"The Olympic Charter is the codification of the Fundamental Principles of Olympism, Rules and Bye-Laws adopted by the IOC. According to Rule 7 of the Charter, the Olympic properties include the Olympic symbol as well as the Olympic flag, motto, anthem, identifiers (such as “Olympic Games” and “Games of the Olympiad”), designations, emblems, the Olympic flame and torches.

All rights to any and all Olympic properties belong exclusively to the IOC, including rights to their use such as in relation to profit-making, commercial or advertising purposes."
Starting with the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, countries hosting the Olympic Games have adopted specific legislation to protect Olympic properties, and to fight ambush marketing (unauthorized exploitation of events) and regulate advertising. As Chappuis writes about London 2012:
"In relation to the London 2012 Olympic Games, the UK Parliament has adopted the London Olympic and Paralympic Act [London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006]. This legislation extends legal protection to all properties associated with the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Moreover, it forbids any entity from associating itself, or its products or services, with the Olympic Games to gain a commercial advantage, unless expressly authorized to do so by the London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) [London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games]. The law also provides local authorities and LOCOG with the means to fight ambush marketing efficiently, and to prevent the unauthorized sale of Olympic tickets and other ambush marketing activities at an Olympic venue or in the air space surrounding it." [links added by LawPundit]
As a matter of international law, the Nairobi Treaty on the Protection of the Olympic Symbol of September 26, 1981, protects the five-ringed Olympic trademark as follows in the signatory countries (but there are only 50 signatories):
"All States which are party to the Treaty are under the obligation to protect the Olympic symbol—five interlaced rings—against use for commercial purposes (in advertisements, on goods, as a mark, etc.) without the authorization of the International Olympic Committee."
Hence, the Olympic properties also rely for protection on special Olympic laws passed in the other nations, such as the USA. In this regard, Trademark Issues to Consider When Covering the Upcoming 2012 Olympic Games is the name of a posting by Maya Yamazaki at the MediaLaw Monitor of Davis Wright Tremaine - a publication which alerted us to this intellectual property issue.

As in the USA, these special laws not only protect Olympic trademarks but even go BEYOND normal trademark laws in the protections offered.

More information on Olympic trademarks is found at:
In Europe, Germany is one of the nations that have special laws protecting Olympic trademarks.

A special law in Germany, the Olympiaschutzgesetz (OlympSchG, Das Gesetz zum Schutz des olympischen Emblems und der olympischen Bezeichnungen),  protects Olympic trademarks. There is on the books a lower German court decision holding that particular law to be unconstitutional, but a later filed petition to the German Parliament to repeal the law failed, so that relying on that lower court opinion might not be the best idea in Germany, where the special Olympic property protection law is still in effect.

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