Archive | 2012, July | (2) posts

The Olympic Games 2012 – brand strategy

2012 is really an enjoyable summer for sport enthusiasts. EURO 2012 has just finished and the exiting Olympic Games in London will start on 27 July 2012. All keen sport fans of the world, as well as the Olympic Flame are getting closer to London. According to an article in the Daily Mail, the sponsors Coca-Cola and McDonalds and their future sponsorship have recently been discussed since Olympics officials have brought up health and obesity concerns. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is indeed aware of its brand value, which of course is crucial for all companies to be aware of, even if it can be tempting to try to get associated with the positive spirit of the Olympic Games.

Even if your company is not eager to become a sponsor of the Olympic Games, it is important to be aware of th efact that IOC is the exclusive owner of all rights in and to the Olympic Games and in particular the intellectual property rights associated thereto. These have the potential to generate revenues, as specified in the Olympic Charter. For example, these rights include the Olympic symbol, flag, motto, anthem, identifications, including “Olympic Games” and “Games of the Olympiad”, designations, emblems, flame and torches. The exclusive rights of IOC include the use for any profit-making, commercial or advertising purposes and licensing of all or part of its rights on terms and conditions set forth by the IOC Executive Board.

Each National Olympic Committee has the task to inform about the intellectual property rights of the IOC. The mission of the 204 National Olympic Committees is to develop, promote and protect Olympism in their respective countries, in accordance with the Olympic Charter. For example, the Swedish Olympic Committee has distributed a brochure containing information about the main principles of the Olympic Charter including guidelines for companies and the participants of the Olympic Games. For instance, companies who are sponsoring a certain group or individual participants during the Olympic Games must observe that this does not include the right to use the Olympic symbol, or expressions such as “London 2012” or similar.

Furthermore, the IOC is the holder of a large number of trademarks connected to the Olympic Games, such as OLYMPIAD (figurative), OLYMPIC GAMES (figurative), OLYMPIC (figurative), SUMMER GAMES, WINTER GAMES, YOUTH GAMES, LONDON (figurative), LONDON 2012 etc. Many of these trademarks are protected for more or less all available goods and services, for example the trademark LONDON 2012. The scope of protection is very wide indeed. Additionally, it is interesting to note that RIO 2016 is already registered as a trademark. TOKYO 2016, MADRID 2016 and CHICAGO 2016 were also filed as trademarks, but now seem to have been surrendered.

Through the above mentioned IP rights of the IOC, the National Olympic Committees have the power to act against anyone that is using the said trademark or confusingly similar trademarks. Moreover, in many cases it is probably also possible for the IOC to argue copyright infringement or a violation of rules on marketing and unfair competition, at least in many jurisdictions. The risk of not respecting the above mentioned IP rights of the IOC is to end up in tough negotiations or even litigation, with legal costs and “bad” publicity etc, with the IOC or any of the National Olympic Committees.

In Sweden there was a number of trademark infringement cases (over 30 cases) regarding the Olympic Games that caused media attention during 2006, which for instance involved a pizza restaurant that sold pizzas under the name “OS-pizza” (“OS” stands for Olympiska Spelen i.e. the Olympic Games in Swedish). The Swedish National Olympic Committee claimed damages and compensation from the pizza restaurant for the use of the trademark of IOC. However, the pizza restaurant was not willing to pay. In the end, the Swedish National Olympic Committee abandoned its claims against four small companies as long as they promised to respect their trademark rights in the future. However, the claims against the remaining larger companies were maintained according to the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

The symbols and trademarks of the Olympic Games are important to respect for all companies and all others who do business. Indeed the IOC has taken a quite tough approach in terms of defending their trademark rights and their other IP rights and in the end, their brand value. One could maybe have some thoughts about the quite wide scope of protection of the trademarks. However, one can also see the tough approach as an inspiration on how to invest in trademarks and how to build their brand value.

Read more about the IOC trademarks.

Helena Ribbefors, Attorney at Law
Martin Tranälv, Attorney at Law

A new dawn for protection of designs?

It is no secret that the differences in national European law concerning the protection of designs, has been driving many Danish rights holders crazy for years on end. It has been difficult to come to terms with the fact that while many of our prominent Danish designs – designs of which we as a nation are proud – are protected under national Danish copyright law for the lifetime of the designer plus 70 years, it has been perfectly legal to purchase cheap (and sometimes not so cheap) copies in England and have them shipped to Denmark.

Many holders of such rights have fought in vain to stem the steady flow of such copies from England first to private consumers, and eventually and inevitably to the numerous flea markets, garage sales and even auction houses. While importing the copies for purely private use is perfectly legal in Denmark, the selling of such copies on the Danish market is not. But trying to stop private individuals from reselling their used copies is, to say the very least, a losing fight.

Help might just be at hand though, as the UK has recently announced a new measure to increase the protection of such rights. If passed, the protection of copyright in relation to manufactured furniture will be increased from the current span of a short 25 years to the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years, bringing it into line with most other European Union member states.

From a legal perspective, the differences in national laws on copyright protection have given rise to many interesting questions. The laws on copyright have not been harmonized in the EU. Coupled with the laws concerning the free movement of goods in the Union and the advances of internet shopping, it has been possible to find loopholes which allow citizens in some countries to purchase copies from countries with a more lenient law, while in other member states it is punishable even to import such copies. Is it fair that individuals in Denmark can own copies, when in some countries – such a France – it is punishable by law to even cross the border with a fake watch? Importing fake designer furniture into France can cost you a fine of up to EUR 300.000 or even a three year stay in prison.

With such extremes in copyright protection with France and Italy at one end of the scale and the UK at the other, it seems improbable that the laws on copyright will be harmonized anytime soon. For now, all we can hope for is that the UK enacts the suggested provision and sets up a solid system for enforcing it too.

Mette Bender, Attorney at Law