Spotlight on Olympic IP

We’ve all seen the Olympic rings, torch, flag, motto, and associated emblems. We’ve hummed along to the Olympic anthem. We’ve all fallen in love with Soohorang, the adorable white tiger mascot of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

Together, these identifications create the unique character of the Olympic Games. They’re more than just marketing: people around the world associate them with the fundamental principles of excellence, friendship, and respect through sport. Strong intellectual property (IP) protections play a critical role in safeguarding this Olympic brand for consumers present and future.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) exercises ownership over a large IP portfolio, including a variety of trademarks and copyrights. The IOC uses its IP as leverage to attract partners that share its inherent values and want to support its mission.

When consumers see Olympic trademarks associated with their favorite products – from t-shirts and jackets, to cereal and soda, to cars and airline tickets – they glean an association between the Olympic values and the product company’s values. In short, consumers can count on Olympic sponsor companies and licensees to provide Olympic-worthy products with Olympic-worthy service.

Consumers can also count on their purchases elevating a higher cause. In exchange for sponsorship – namely, in exchange for Olympic IP rights and associated marketing opportunities – Olympic sponsors provide expertise and donate resources, like staging and operations support, state-of-the-art technology, and staff deployment, that directly support the training and success of Olympic athletes and hopefuls. Profits from sponsorship also fund the promotion of broader humanitarian objectives around the world, like the educational, environmental, cultural, and youth-oriented initiatives of the Olympics.

Unfortunately, bad actors attempt to profit off of the Olympic brand’s reputation without first gaining permission. This theft hurts businesses and consumers alike. IP theft creates interference with the legitimate marketing activities of the IOC and its Olympic partners, discouraging future investment. IP theft also hurts consumers who trust that goods carrying Olympic trademarks maintain high merchandising standards; many trademark counterfeiters peddle low-quality products, some of which can be dangerous and even deadly. Educate yourself on avoiding counterfeit goods with our top ten tips to shop safe.

In order to ensure the prosperity of the Olympic Games and the Olympic ideals at their core, the global community must recognize and respect the importance of strong IP protections. Because with strong IP protections, we can all take home the gold.

Courtney Paul is the manager of communications for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Global Innovation Policy Center.

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