Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

Protecting the Olympic Brand

Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

Protecting the Olympic Brand

Article excerpt

After a long and gruelling contest, London finally won the race to host the Summer Olympic Games in 2012. Now the real work--and, indeed, expense, estimated at many billion pounds--begins. Apart from putting in place and implementing a whole range of contracts, including ones for building the Olympic venues and infrastructures and official sponsorship and merchandising programmes, the organising committee will also need to take measures to protect the Olympic brand itself. These measures are a sine qua non for hosting the Games and a vital ingredient for their financial success. And this will need statutory support. The recent Queen's Speech at the opening of the new Parliament foresaw the introduction and passage of an Olympic Act, which, amongst other things, would make provision for this important matter.

The most famous Olympic symbol, the five interconnected rings in blue, yellow, black, green and red symbolising the Olympic movement already enjoy special trademark protection at the international and national level. Internationally, the Olympic Rings are protected by the so-called Nairobi Agreement on the Protection of the Olympic Symbol of 1981. In the UK, there is existing legislation, the Olympic Symbol etc (Protection) Act of 1995. Under this Act, they can only be used with the consent of the British Olympic Association (BOA). Infringers face civil and criminal penalties. The BOA is also the custodian, on behalf of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), of the Olympic Motto (Citius Altius Fortius--'Faster Higher Stronger') and certain other words, such as 'Olympic(s)', 'Olympiad(s)' and 'Olympian(s)'.

However, it is clear that this legislation will need to be brought up to date to deal with the protection of the organising committee's logo for the London Games and not least the increasing phenomenon of 'ambush marketing'. This is a form of unfair marketing practice--the Olympic movement calls it 'parasite marketing'--in which a party, wishing to jump on the Olympic marketing bandwagon, claims, usually as part of its advertising and marketing programme, an association with a major sports event, such as the Olympics--often dubbed the greatest sporting show on earth! …

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