The Olympic brand protection: challenges in London 2012.

Author:Bikoff, James L.


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is an international nonprofit corporation based in Lausanne, Switzerland, established in the early 1890s by Baron Pierre de Coubertin. From its inception, the IOC and the modern Olympic movement have sought to promote the unity of peoples throughout the world through sport.

One of the means of promoting the Olympic movement has been the use of names and symbols to represent the ideals embodied in the Olympic Charter. The Olympic symbol (better known as the Olympic rings) consists of five interlocking rings representing the five inhabited continents of the world, united by the Olympic Movement. The ring colors--blue, yellow, black, green, and red--were chosen because at the time this symbol was adopted, each participating nation had at least one of the colors in its national flag.

The 1896 Olympic Games, the first of the modern era, featured 241 participants representing 14 countries. Today the Games have grown to approximately 10,500 competitors from 204 countries. Billions of people worldwide watch the summer Olympic Games every four years; it is estimated that two-thirds of the world population tuned in to television coverage at some point during the 2008 Beijing Games. The Olympic marks are thus some of the most recognizable symbols on the planet, and, because of that recognition, there are many individuals around the world who seek to profit from them.

To protect the Olympic symbols from profiteers, and to preserve the spirit of the Olympic Games and the unity they represent, over 90 nations have become parties to what is known as the Nairobi Treaty. All states that are parties to the Nairobi Treaty are obliged to protect the Olympic symbol against commercial use (in advertisements, on goods, as a mark, etc.) without the authorization of the International Olympic Committee. The IOC also requires all nations vying to host the Olympics to take sufficient measures for the protection of the Olympic names and symbols. This international cooperative effort to protect the Olympic marks reflects a global commitment to maintaining the integrity of the Olympic Games.


In the United Kingdom there are two statutes protecting the Olympic symbols and marks: the Olympic Symbol Protection Act (1) (OSPA), and the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 (2) (the 2006 Act). OSPA grants the British Olympic Association exclusive rights to certain...

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