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8 Questions About Olympics and Copyrights We Never Knew About

You can't simply use the Olympics rings, flag, motto, or any other trademarks

Are you a huge fan of the Olympics? Did you know that Pierre de Coubertin designed the Olympic Rings symbol? Well, here are 8 things about Olympics and copyrights you’ve probably never heard of.


1. What are the trademarks and properties associated with the Olympic games?

The Olympic trademarks and properties are the Olympic rings, Olympic emblems, the Olympic motto, the Olympic flag, the Olympic anthem, Olympic identifications like ‘Team USA’ and ‘Olympic Games’, Olympic designations, the Olympic flame and torches.


2. Is it permissible for me to use any of the Olympics trademarks or properties?

With the exception of the Olympic flag, which is prohibited for public use, one can use the other Olympics trademarks and properties –  IF one has obtained consent from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), which also owns rights to the trademarks of the Pan-American and Paralympic Games.

According to the IOC, such rights extend to include footage of the Games in YouTube videos for the purposes of promotion and advertising. However, even if a license has been granted, there may be additional restrictions for use of the marks. If a license fee is imposed, a part of the revenue will go towards the relevant National Olympic Committee (NOC). At this time, there are 206 NOCs globally.

With regards to the use of the word ‘Olympic’ after 21 September 1950:

Every state in which the Olympics are held may enact legislation that governs the use of the Olympic trademarks and other Olympic paraphernalia. The word Olympic may be used as a brand identity if:

a) Such use is not combined with any of the Olympic trademarks.

b) Such business is operated, or such goods and services are sold and marketed, in the US state of Washington, west of the Cascade Mountain range, and marketing beyond this area is not significant.

c) There is evidence to prove that the word Olympic is used to refer to naturally occurring mountains or geographical region of the same name.


3. What are the roles of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC)?

The IOC is responsible for the supervision, support and monitoring of the organisation of the games. Besides ensuring the smooth running of the Games, the IOC also has to make sure that rules in the Olympic Charter are adhered to.

The USOC has the authority to grant suppliers and contributors of goods and services the use of the Olympic trademarks. These may use the trademarks to advertise goods, contributions or services that were given, approved, picked or used by the USOC, the US Olympic team, the Pan-American and the Paralympic team or team members.


4. In what way are the intellectual property rights (IPRs) for the use of the trademarks and properties of the Olympics enforced?

If permission from the USOC has not been sought, the committee may file a civil action lawsuit against the person, should he or she use the trademarks for the purpose of trade; for the promotion of any theatrical exhibition, athletic performance or competition; or for the induction of the sale of any goods or services.  The USOC may act against any use of the word Olympic or similar terms that have the tendency to cause confusion or mistake, to mislead or to falsely imply a link with the USOC or any Olympic, Pan-American and Paralympic Games activity. However, a display of actual consumer confusion, or even a probability of such confusion is unnecessary for USOC to be in force.


5. Is there any form of international protection against copyright infringements of the Olympic trademarks and properties?

China has adopted its own ‘Regulations on the Protection of Olympic Symbols of the People’s Republic of China’. Some countries have signed the Nairobi Treaty on the Protection of the Olympic Symbol (1981), which is administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and is open to any state that is a member of WIPO, the UN and its related agencies, or the Paris Convention. There are 51 contracting members, WIPO stated. States that have signed the treaty are authorized to nix the registration of a mark and to ban its use for commercial purposes.


6. How does the IOC ensure that people across the globe has access to the Olympic Games?

The IOC sells the Olympics broadcast rights to a growing number of countries and markets, primarily broadcasters that can ensure the widest possible coverage, especially in the age of video streaming and mobile devices.


7. Can unofficial sponsors use the word ‘Olympic’ and other Olympic marks?

No, this is to limit ambush marketing activities.For example, Under Armour had to alter their slogans and messages.


8. What is the ‘blackout period’?

In the context of the Olympic Games, there will be a ‘blackout period’ from 27 July 2016 to 24 August 2016. During this period, no single athlete, coach, trainer and official may let his name, picture, person or sports performances be used in advertisements during the Games. This is accordance to the Olympic Charter and Rule 40. To date, the IOC revealed that Rule 40 has been amended to allow personal sponsors of the athletes to associate with them during the games.



Jo Leen Yong
Jo Leen Yong
Jo Leen now devotes her time to creating compelling web content for a variety of audiences. In her previous post at a business intelligence firm, she provided written news summaries for corporate clients.

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