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To Avoid Trademark Headaches, Olympics Must Be Off-Limits

July 24, 2012

Sally Abel, Chair of the Trademark Group with Fenwick & West, was recently quoted in the Law360 article, "To Avoid Trademark Headaches, Olympics Must Be Off-Limits."

With the 2012 Olympics in full swing, many companies are tempted to tie their promotions to the games; however, attorneys caution that this can be a risky practice.  Since 1978, the U.S. Olympic Committee has exclusively owned the rights to the word Olympic, and they have a history of strict enforcement of its use when it comes to non-Olympic sponsors.

Unless it is a company considered by the USOC or the International Olympic Committee to be an official sponsor of the games, the legal advice regarding just about any reference to the Olympics is simple, according to Sally Abel of Fenwick & West LLP.

"It is dangerous to do anything around the symbols of the Olympics," she said. "The best advice is to focus on something else."

Abel went on to say that if a company were to say something like, "'We congratulate our athletes competing in London,' I'd think a court would be hard-pressed to say that runs afoul of the law. But other than that, if you use Olympics, you're going to get into trouble."