By Howard Zaharoff.
Yes, the Winter Games start this week. But before you decide to use this exciting event to promote your products or services or to communicate with customers, be aware that commercial use of Olympic indicia without the consent of the United States Olympic Committee (“USOC”) can get you sued.
The U.S. Code (technically, the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, 36 U.S.C. 220501 et seq.) provides that the USOC may file suit against anyone who, without the USOC’s consent, uses the words “Olympic” or “Olympiad” (or “Paralympic” or “Paralympiad”), the USOC emblem, or the Olympic interlocking rings symbol “for the purpose of trade, to induce the sale of any goods or services, or to promote any theatrical exhibition, athletic performance, or competition.” This is in addition to the standard trademark protection afforded the International Olympic Committee and the USOC for their marks and brands.
The USOC has been active and aggressive in protecting its rights and taking action against companies that, with awareness or in complete innocence, use any Olympic indicia to promote their wares. Using marks or brands associated with a big event (with which you have no relation or license) to promote your own offerings or draw attention to your business is often called “ambush marketing” and the USOC and its lawyers hate it … and go after it aggressively.
So before you decide to make explicit, or even oblique, reference to the upcoming Olympics in promoting your company or its offerings, without being granted a license by the USOC, stop … and don’t, at least not without consulting your lawyer.
For more information, please contact Howard Zaharoff.