–Sharon Armstrong, Attorney
It’s that time of every-two-years ….the Olympics are coming to a screen near you! Cue the torch, the John Williams theme, and the familiar ring of Bob Costas’ voice.
And with these familiar sights and sounds comes another regular accompaniment to the Olympics – trademark infringers. The Guardian reports that, near Olympic Park, businesses selling goods and services as varied as furniture, kebabs, and hairdressing began popping up only a year and a half ago. Then, slowly but surely, the names started changing, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the London organizing committee (LOCOG) began enforcing the IOC’s rights in the well-known rings, flame, and words.
We’ve blogged about the uptick of infringements at global sporting events such as the Olympics and the World Cup many times over, including, here, here, and here. So what’s special about this year? Not much, beyond the simple lesson that owning numerous trademark registrations, or even having protections above and beyond those provide by the Lanham Act and common law – as the IOC does (in the United States) through the Ted Stevens Act – won’t stop third parties from engaging in infringement. Trademark owners, like the IOC, must be willing to use their rights as a sword against infringers in order to maintain the value of the Olympic symbols and brand – and maintain the value of the Olympics for sponsors, 55 of which, according to the Guardian, have partially footed to the tune of $1.7 billion pounds.