Let the Games Begin! (Just Don’t Win Olympic Gold in Trademark Infringement…)

Little known fact: apparently, you can also win a gold medal in trademark infringement at the Olympics.

Of course, you likely won’t see much coverage of the event (Saturday morning at 7:30, squeezed between the lawn bowling and potato sack races?), but the U.S. and International Olympic Committees take very seriously any infringement upon their IP.

Just one of many legal considerations for corporations hoping to capitalize on Olympic fever. You might be interested to see:

The Flame, the Fanfare, the… Filings for Infringement? (Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP):

“… USOC has aggressively protected ‘their’ intellectual property, suing or threatening to sue countless organizations such as: … The International Institute for Sport and Olympic History; Minnesota indie-pop band ‘The Olympic Hopefuls’; Maine-based sporting festival The Redneck Olympics; Ravelry.com, a free social network for knitters and crocheters; and The Olympics of the Mind — another non-profit, designed to create ‘healthy competition’ between school age kids to foster critical thinking.” Read on>>

Use Caution When Advertising Around The Olympics (Venable LLP):

“Unlike typical infringement claims, a claim of likelihood of confusion is not necessary for the USOC to prevail. In addition, the Trademark Counterfeiting Act of 1984 includes special provisions for counterfeit uses of the Olympic trademarks. These provisions include criminal penalties, right of seizure by ex parte application, and award of attorneys’ fees and wrongful profits. In addition, there may be liability under other federal and state statutes and exposure for lost profits and attorneys’ fees depending upon the cause of action. Further, other rights holders may be able to assert claims depending on the alleged infringement.” Read on>>

A Lesson in Cease-and-Desist Manners (Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.):
“The most recent kerfuffle comes courtesy of popular knitting/social-networking website Ravelry, whose home page shows cheerful llamas, sheep, and bunnies frolicking across a landscape of bountiful and soft yarn. Ravelry, up until recently, was the home of the ‘Ravelympics,’ which featured an ‘afghan marathon,’ ‘scarf hockey,’ and ‘sweater triathlon.’ Now in its third year, the event drew the ever-watchful eye of the USOC, which, like its counterpart in London, which I wrote about last month, is charged with protecting the brand value of the OLYMPICS mark, with which major companies pay millions of dollars to be associated.” Read on>>

A Special Event Taking Over Your City? (Duane Morris LLP):

“Be aware that specific regulations exist for the Olympics to prohibit ambush marketing. The organizers issued special guidance in April 2010 on their special powers. As with previous Olympics, there is tightened trademark and copyright protection for Olympic symbols, words and logos. In addition, special laws deal with street trading, ticket sales and the unauthorized use of Olympics tickets as prizes in promotions. Coupled with that, UK law protects sports personalities who have been featured in marketing campaigns without their consent.” Read on>>

Why You Should Ambush ‘Ambush Marketing’ (Heenan Blaikie LLP):

“As we approach the 2012 London Olympics we are reminded of the cautions of ambush marketing. As the event draws near and excitement builds it seems that everyone wants to get in on the action. But be careful about getting too excited and showing your brand’s support of the movement. Unless you are an official sponsor of the Olympic games, any advertising that associates your brand with the Olympics will likely be considered ‘ambush marketing’. And, there are significant legal (and PR) risks at stake.” Read on>>

Godin on Trademark Bullying? (Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.):

“Of course, the OLYMPICS brand sits in a very unique position as compared to most trademark owners because Congress granted very special protection in the word OLYMPIC to the U.S. Olympic Committee, see Title 36 of the U.S. Code in Section 220506. I also agree with Seth Godin’s words: ‘You can’t build a brand by trying to sue anyone who chooses to talk about you.’ But, I guess I’m not seeing that here — at least, in the examples given. So, talk is fine, but operating a business under a name using the word Olympic is something quite different.” Read on>>

It’s the Most Infringing Time of Every Two Years (Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.):
“And with these familiar sights and sounds comes another regular accompaniment to the Olympics – trademark infringers. The Guardian reports that, near Olympic Park, businesses selling goods and services as varied as furniture, kebabs, and hairdressing began popping up only a year and a half ago. Then, slowly but surely, the names started changing, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the London organizing committee (LOCOG) began enforcing the IOC’s rights in the well-known rings, flame, and words.” Read on>>

IP Lawyers are Collateral Damage When Mary Poppins Battles He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named at London’s Olympic Games (Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP):

“Word on the street is that Boyle’s climactic sequence involves a 40-foot Voldemort who will rise out of a bed in the center of Olympic Stadium, scaring off classic literary characters in British history such as Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Captain Hook, and Cruella De Vil, before doing battle with 30 different actresses playing Mary Poppins, all of whom will descend from the roof of the stadium on wires and float to the ground using opened umbrellas to banish the dark lord and his dementor army… Somewhere Mia Michaels and Michael Bay’s hypothetical love child is clapping with the enthusiasm of Dr. Strangeglove’s uncontrollable hand. And a few IP lawyers’ heads are exploding from worry over this character licensing nightmare.” Read on>>

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