Transfer Pricing Associates

IPR Surrounding the Olympics

post Wednesday August 8, 2012


It is that time again. The Summer Olympic Games have arrived in London.

The Olympics bring thoughts of top athletic performance, excitement and perseverance. Often the most anticipated event, the opening ceremony, elicits oohs and ahhs and much discussion about the various customs (and athletes) from countries worldwide. Not often discussed or analyzed, however, is the role that intellectual property plays in the Games.

Every trademark, design element and specialized feature of the Games must be protected under intellectual property regulations. As the events secure millions of dollars of sponsorship, protecting the sponsors’ investments and preventing guerrilla placement of brand imagery is imperative - sponsors contribute 45% of the event’s revenues.

According to The Guardian, the Olympic brand is estimated to be worth £30.8 billion. Among the items that are protected under the various trademarks and copyrights seen at the Games, the Olympic committee (and the Olympic organization overall) controls the use of the icon symbol, flag, motto, anthem, identification, designs and the flame and torch emblem seen throughout the Games.

The protections used to regulate the various Olympic imagery are defined as “any visual or audio representation of any association, connection or other link with the Olympic Games, the Olympic Movement, or any constituent thereof.” The vague and all-encompassing protection used is aimed to protect the exclusivity of the Games’ sponsors from ambush marketing, or as the committee has described it, “any attempt to create a false unauthorised association with the Games” and it can have a negative effect on the Olympics brand and companies that are rightfully associated with it.

On an international level, the Olympic symbol is protected under the Nairobi Treaty of the Protection of the Olympic symbol. On a national level, the host cities are required to adopt laws which ensure the protection of the Olympic properties.  In preparation of the London Games, Britain has adopted the London Olympic Games and Paralympic  Games Act 2006 which entails the rights of association. In this act there are two lists, A and B, of expressions, where the use of any two expressions of one list, or a combination of the expressions of both lists constitutes the infringement of association rights.  

However, to adopt those laws in practice is a different story, as one website which sells party pieces offered Olympics related items under its “celebrate the games” section, was not found to have infringed on the copyright

It has also caused quite a stir, as words included in the expressions list are seen as being very common, such as “games”, “summer” and “Olympics” and thus it has been labeled as abuse of laws to protect commercial rights.

As the Olympics and other global athletic events garner increased media attention and sponsorship value, the regulations of non-related businesses will likely increase. Although, at what point does the regulation prevent audience enjoyment and athlete participation?

Source: IP watch

Source: Image

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