Intellectual Property and Their Role in Olympic Games

Hundreds of countries and Thousands of athletes from all around the world participate in Olympic Games; these are the world’s truly global, multi-sport, celebratory athletics competitions. At the Olympics, the world came together to try to win, was inspired and united. Greek and first Olympic inspired the Olympics were held in ancient Greek in 8th Century BC.

Pierre de Coubertin is the founder of the Olympic games as he formed the International Olympic Committee, i.e. IOC, in 1894, which marshal to the First Modern Olympic Games in 1896. It is an NPO that collaborates with all the Parties of the Olympic Family, making sure that the games are celebrated once every four years.

Olympic Games are scheduled to be held as follows –

  • Tokyo 2020
  • Beijing 2022
  • Paris 2024
  • Milano Cortina 2026
  • LA 2028

Olympic GamesHowever, to sustain itself and deliver on these objectives, the IOC must protect the uniqueness, value, and excellence of the Olympics through robust IP protection. It underlies the Olympics on every level and is vital in preserving the integrity and harnessing the commercial value of the Olympic brand and encouraging the innovations that allow the Games to be experienced by trillions of viewers worldwide. Olympic is the zenith of the athletic competitions and, in some ways, protects the IP laws.

When one city wishes to be the host of the event, they need to express their interest to their respective National Olympic Committees; after that, they register their trademarks, for example, the logo of the Olympics 2020 to be held in Tokyo. If the domain is registered at an earlier stage, there is less chance of preventing abuse of subsequent stage.

Cities that would take part in the formal trial to the Olympics, with a complete plan and all sorts of literary & artistic works and audiovisual content that is eligible for copyright protection. Also developed in the program would be the mascots, symbols, brand, broadcasting, emblems, slogans, etc., that could be registered as trademarks or industrial designs.

The IP associated with the Olympics, including trademarks and broadcasting rights, is held by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the non-profit organization ultimately responsible for organizing the summer and winter Olympics. It is, therefore, no exaggeration to say that without proper IP protection, the Olympic Games simply would not be possible.

IOC (International Olympic Committee) has to take care of the protection of individuality, significance, and brilliance of Olympics in the course of healthy IP protection. The Intellectual Property coupled with the Olympics, including logos and broadcasting rights, is owned by IOC.

It will not be wrong to say that there is no way to hold the Olympics without adequate IP protection. An indispensable segment of the event is Olympics Torch. The Olympic logo of the five interconnected five rings (‘Olympic Five Rings”) is one of the most prestigious symbols in the world. The Nairobi Treaty for protecting the Olympic Symbol is the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). “Take appropriate measures” prohibits using the logo for commercial purposes unless permitted by the International Olympic Committee.

In addition to symbols, the event’s official mascot has a brand, and pictograms represent different sports and medals. “Ambush marketing is the practice of ‘hijackin’ another brand’s advertising campaign to promote your brand”. A classic example of Olympic “ambush marketing” was the 1992 Winter Olympics in France, where the visa was its official sponsor.

When sponsoring its model, it’s easy for a brand to start making money. The most valuable asset of Olympic intellectual property rights is broadcasting rights, which account for about 73% of the income of the International Olympic Committee. The main sponsors of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are Airbnb, Alibaba, coca-cola, P & G, Bridgestone, Visa, etc. The main reason for protection is to protect your connection with the Olympics.

In culmination, intellectual property protection is involved in the Olympics from its begin to the end in one host Country and then moves on to the next host. By protecting the intellectual property of its sponsors and affiliates, the Olympic Committee not only secures its funding and revenues but also ensures that the artists and creators of the logos, symbols, and other designs are appropriately accredited for their work and efforts. Regarding the intellectual property owned by the IOC, it ensures the integrity of the Olympic Games and the spirit of global unification, collectiveness, and cooperation associated with the games. These resources facilitate the staging of the games, foster its worldwide development, and uphold the values of the Olympic Games.

Author: Kanika Raheja, 3rd Year BBA LLB (Hons.) from Fairfield Institute of Management & Technology, currently an intern at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys. In case of any queries please contact/write back to us at sudhanshu@khuranaandkhurana.com.

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