Friday, March 30, 2012

olympic fever

Merchandising the Olympics

Having lived - and worked in an intellectual property practice - through the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, it is interesting to see the same issues playing out in London as the 2012 Games approaches (please, no one sue me for using “2012” and “Games” in the same phrase).

There are many articles around which give a detailed look at the issues that face the legal team of the Olympic Committee of a host country, when the Games are almost upon them. First you have to negotiate all those license agreements with the sponsors whose funds make the Games possible; then you have to enforce them. This means everything from watching for sophisticated ambush marketing, to calling the small kebab shop to tell them that they can’t use the Olympic Rings on their sign. Even if they will be selling to Olympic tourists in the Olympic city of summer 2012.

One thing that often surprises the uninitiated is the very draconian levels of protection that are given to Olympic trade marks and logos. For example, the date “2012” is registered in all 45 classes of goods and services as a Community Trade Mark by the IOC. There are strict parameters, strictly enforced, about using “Games”, “London”, and “2012” as well as “Olympic” and the famous coloured rings.

But the truth of the matter is two-fold. Firstly, after the 2012 Games are done and dusted, the registration for “2012” will be worth nothing and will probably languish, as will many other temporary rights.

Secondly, such draconian measures are needed to protect the turf of the people who make the Games possible. No, not the athletes - the sponsors. Since sponsorship became a mainstay around the time of the Los Angeles Olympics, it has become the only way the expensive, slick, wonderful modern Olympics can possibly exist. Yes, host countries contribute enormous amounts, especially to infrastructure which will hopefully be of lasting value to their communities. But without the sponsors, no Games. And without protection for their trademarks, no sponsors.

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