February 14, 2014
Just like “Super Bowl,” the Olympics are a trademark-studded event. The terms “Olympic,” “Olympiad” and “Paralympic” are all registered trademarks, as are the five-ring symbol and certain flame- or torch-related imagery.
Ten companies pay millions of dollars to be part of The Olympic Partner program, which gives them the right to slather these trademarks over just about everything. Now, officially affiliating yourself with the Olympics costs a lot of money, and certain companies have arguably tried to get in on the Olympic fever without actually paying for it. This is called “ambush marketing” – creating an affiliation with something without paying for that right.
- Electronics maker Philips is not an official Olympic sponsor, but it seems to be winning the Olympic ambush-marketing game. According to Inside the Games, it’s the non official-sponsor brand with the highest affiliation with the Olympics.
- The North Face, which is not an official Olympic sponsor, tried to launch a “Villagewear” collection, including items like a “Sochi full-zip hoodie.” After a cease-and-desist letter from the Canadian Olympics Committee, it renamed it the “International Collection,” but the COC still wants the garments yanked from stores.
- Subway is running a TV spot with former Olympic speedskater Apolo Ohno, Australian snowboard-goddess Torah Bright and an anonymous pair of figure skaters. The ad never mentions “Sochi” or “Olympics,” but even so, the ad has some intellectual property and advertising-industry observers have squinted in disapproval.
With an event as big as the Olympics, it is easy to see why just about everyone wants to get it on them. Watching attorneys chase after potential infringers really should be considered for the 2018 games, don’t you think?
Bonus: Gizmodo ran an interesting post recently on patents that made the winter Olympic events possible.