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Olympic is the largest sporting event in the world, which features both summer and winter sports. Currently XXIII Olympic Winter Games are going on in the capital of Republic of Korea. Thousands of players and their supporters come from across the globe. South Korea is expected to spend $ 13 billion in organizing the 2018 winter Olympic. Historically, to get sponsorship for organizing the Olympic games, the hosting country uses the Olympic symbol, flag, motto and anthem, transfers all the rights related to these elements to the sponsors. The intellectual property(IP) system plays an important role in safeguarding the unique character of the Olympic Games. In Olympics games, the act of ambush marketing has been an increasing phenomenon which is a serious concern for the hosting countries. This article will highlight the IP aspects of the Olympic games.
Intellectual Properties in Olympic
Usually, motto, logo, anthem and emblems are seen as Olympic properties but in practice it is more than that. It encompasses all rights relating to the Olympic Games in relation to advertisement, organization, telecast, broadcast and marketing of the event. The Olympic properties qualify for IP protection under laws governing copyright, trademark and industrial designs, which together with patents, utility models and trade secrets make up the palette of IP assets that are relevant to the Olympic Games. All the IP rights associated with the Olympic properties are exclusively owned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which provides support for organizing and hosting of Olympic.
Innovation in Olympic games
The 2018 Pyeon Chang Olympics is the latest example in which one can easily find the relation of invention and Olympics. In the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, a torch was designed in such way that the flames will continue to burn in all weather conditions, and that will withstand the strong winds and heavy snowfall that can be expected in the Republic of Korea. This example shows the quality of innovation in the Olympic Games. Therefore, it is a duty of the hosting country to protect the rights of the innovator.
Challenges to the Protection of Olympic Intellectual Properties
The IOC places heavy emphasis on protecting intellectual properties rights associated with Olympics because financial success of the Games and the profit that Games themselves generate for corporate sponsors depends entirely upon the protection of the Olympic properties. These properties are threatened in several ways, including ambush marketing, trademark infringement, counterfeiting and cybersquatting. Ambush marketing and trademark infringement occur more often in the Olympic Games.
Ambush marketing – Ambush marketing occurs each time when a non-Olympic sponsor tries to portray itself as an official Olympic sponsor in an effort to “capitalize on the goodwill, reputation, and popularity” of the Olympics. In 2016 Rio Olympic Games, there were many cases of ambush marketing like Nike and its ‘unlimited campaign’, social media posts, Ford videos etc. To tackle with the menace of ambush marketing, the hosting countries have started to enact special legislation. An anti-ambush marketing legislation was introduced for the first time in 2000 Sydney Olympic. Similar was the means used in the 2016 Rio Olympic where Brazil enacted special legislation called Olympic Act (Law 12,035/2009) to protect the interest of official sponsors from ambush marketing.
Trademark Infringement – The hosting country’s ability to raise money from sponsors, suppliers, advertising agencies and licensees is hindered by a mere possibility of trademark infringement. The IOC has taken numerous steps to prevent the trademark infringement. There are numerous lawsuits that have been filed by the IOC against trademark infringers i.e. lawsuit to restrain defendants from using term “Olympic” in an athletic competition and trademark opposition suit against application of bakery to register mark “Olympic Kids” for use on its baking goods.
International Treaty on the protection of the Olympic Symbol
The Nairobi Treaty on the Protection of the Olympic Symbol is one of the international treaties on IP administered by WIPO. Any state that has ratified the treaty is obliged to refuse or to invalidate the registration of a mark and to prohibit by appropriate measures the use of a mark or other signs, for commercial purposes, of any sign consisting of or containing the Olympic symbol, as defined in the Charter of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), except with the authorization of the IOC.
In the current world, the Olympic Games are a brand in itself and the protection of the Olympic properties is very important. The IOC has been trying to protect the Olympic properties with the help of international treaties and national legislations. However ordinary legal protection, such as trademark, copyright remains essentials. These laws are not sufficient in protecting the Olympic properties and like other trademark or copyright owners, IOC faces a number of challenges in managing its IP, particularly in relation to social media platforms. IOC and other bodies must therefore, ensure that the Olympic properties should be protected so that people of all ages and all continents can continue enjoy the mega event that Olympics are.
Author: Ajay Sharma, intern at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. In case of any queries please contact/write back to us at email@example.com.
https://www.npr.org/2018/02/02/582790412/south-korea-prepares-to-spend-13-billion-on-winter-olympics-is-it-worth-it (Last Updated on 26/02/2018)
http://www.wipo.int/portal/en/news/2018/article_0002.html(Last Updated on 26/02/2018)
 Stephen M. McKelvey, Atlanta ’96: Olympic Countdown to Ambush Armageddon? 4 SETON HALL J. SPORT L. 397,401(1994)
 San Francisco Arts & Athletics, Inc. v. U.S. Olympic Comm., 483 U.S. 522 (1987)
 O.M. Bread, Inc, v. U.S. Olympic Comm, 65 F.3d 933(Fed, Cir. 1995)
http://www.wipo.int/ip-sport/en/olympic.html(Last updated on 26/02/2018)