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IP, marketing, and the Olympics: Is there a limit?

by | Jul 1, 2021 | Intellectual Property, Trademarks

Whether you were chosen to represent the United States, have a loved one competing in the games or enjoyed athletics in your younger days, worldwide competition is sure to bring excitement to the summer. However, competition doesn’t just pertain to sports.

Those who secure intellectual property (IP) rights to their inventions or products have the right to take legal action against unauthorized use. This applies to the words, phrases and logos trademarked by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC).

Trademarks, finances and rights

The USOPC heads amateur athletic programs nationwide and does so without government funding. They maintain “broad rights” to the commercial use of the organization’s intellectual property IP.

Various corporations that fund the USOPC to help athletes prepare for and participate in the Olympics have special permission to use the Committee’s trademarks to acknowledge the dedicated athletes involved. However, using Olympic trademarks without consent detracts from corporate sponsorship.

Taking advantage of the U.S. Olympic IP for fundraising activities could also negatively affect the amount of financial backing available to the team. If you question why this is problematic, consider other well-known brands.

Attaching a value to brand recognition

Like the Olympics, many businesses have brands easily recognized around the globe. With influence comes customer loyalty. And through dedicated purchasing decisions come increased sales.

If you question how using “Team USA” or “Go for the Gold” could thwart the Olympic team, consider how much familiar brands are worth. For example:

  • Mercedes-Benz has a brand value of $58 billion. There’s no question who that infamous star logo belongs to.
  • With more economic and eco-friendly options, Toyota’s brand is valued at nearly $59.5 billion.
  • Virtually everyone has a social media account, evidenced in Facebook’s brand worth nearly $82 billion. (How do you “like” that?)
  • Low prices resulted in Walmart’s $93 billion brand value.
  • Countless brands available for sale on Amazon’s platform contributed to the retailer’s $254 billion brand value.
  • While not everyone owns an Apple product, innovation comes with a brand value of $263 billion.

Since you can’t lawfully benefit from the use of another company’s IP, you must be diligent when selecting ways to represent your business. Just as you must respect the rights of the Olympic Committee, a protected brand will enhance your legal rights to grow your organization as you see fit.