Going for Gold and Earning the Green

While we all anxiously await the return of Bob Costas (Seriously, love Matt Lauer, but Bob is where it’s at when it comes to Olympic commentating.  Can we all agree on that?), it got me thinking about the Olympic symbol, trademarks and who is really earning gold in Sochi 2014.

The Olympic Charter, which is adopted by participating countries, outlines and describes in depth the five (5) rings representing the overall Olympic symbol.  The Olympic Charter continues by explaining that countries by way of their own National Olympic Committees can adopt Olympic “emblems.”  Emblems are designs that integrate the original Olympic Symbol of the five rings but have added other distinctive elements.

For example, here is the USA’s adopted emblem.

USA Rings

If you go to the actual registration on the United States Trademark and Patent Office website HERE, you will see the owner of the mark is the United States Olympic Committee.  Meaning, if you infringe on this mark you will not be infringing on a company, but rather you will have the United States government to deal with.

In fact, it is codified in 36 U.S. Code § 220506.  It says the United States Olympic Committee has the exclusive right to use:

(1) name “United States Olympic Committee”;

(2) the symbol of the International Olympic Committee, consisting of 5 interlocking rings, the symbol of the International Paralympic Committee, consisting of 3 TaiGeuks, or the symbol of the Pan-American Sports Organization, consisting of a torch surrounded by concentric rings;

(3) the emblem of the corporation, consisting of an escutcheon having a blue chief and vertically extending red and white bars on the base with 5 interlocking rings displayed on the chief; and

(4) the words “Olympic”, “Olympiad”, “Citius Altius Fortius”, “Paralympic”, “Paralympiad”, “Pan-American”, “America Espirito Sport Fraternite”, or any combination of those words.

Because the United States Olympic Committee has the exclusive right to use the mark, that also means that the United States is the one who says how the mark is used.  The USA also says how it is licensed.  The USA also is the one collecting the licensing fees (money) associated with the mark.  Let’s not even go down the rabbit hole of discussing the exclusive broadcast rights and accompanying advertising revenue that goes along with airing the games.  Valuable does not begin to describe the USA adopted Olympic emblem.

Bloomberg Businessweek published an article this past week outlining some of the trademark concerns associated with the Olympic Games.  As the article pointed out, it is okay to be a fan.  The Olympic Committees want viewers and participants to Tweet, Facebook, have blog posts like this one, talk about the games and talk about the athletes.  However, once you start creating merchandise and making a profit off of the trademark is where things can get sticky.  You can read the entire article by going HERE.

The article continued by pointing out and discussing the idea of sponsorships of the Olympic Games.  It is a necessary aspect of trademark protection and enforcement, as I mentioned in a previous post titled What’s So Super About the Super Bowl®? There are only 10 worldwide official sponsors.  They pay a hefty penny to have their trademark and branding associated with the Games and the prestige of calling themselves one of the “Official Sponsors of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.” Because of this, the Olympic symbols and emblems must be protected.

While Team USA has had some disappointment in snowboarding and the jury is still out on total medal count, let’s not give up on Team USA just yet.  Even with no medals and the Games not being held on American soil, a valuable trademark with companies vying to be associated with your mark will always leave you bringing home the green.  Take part in the comments section below and Stay Tuned In!

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2 thoughts on “Going for Gold and Earning the Green

  1. As use of the term Olympic et al dates back to Ancient Greece, I dare say that someone sold katoochis at the event and used the name in commerce. Speculated in that case, assuming continuing and multiples uses, it might be genericized. However when the US Code says….

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