With the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games just a few weeks away, it is important to remember that unauthorized commercial use of any Olympic trademarks, logos, or symbols, as well as any advertising/social media activity tending to suggest any connection with the Olympics and/or the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), is prohibited by a federal law enacted in 1998, which grants exclusive rights to USOC for all Olympic marks (e.g., Olympiad, Olympic, Team USA, Olympian, PyeongChan 2018, the Olympic flame, Torch, Flag, “Citius Altius Fortius,” the Olympic mascots, and the Olympic rings).
The Olympic Committee has previously taken action (see Olympic and FIFA Trademark Rights Aggressively Enforced) against companies who are not official sponsors when it believes that advertising or social media activity implies affiliation with the Olympics. For example, in 2016 the USOC aggressively enforced alleged infringement in social media, including sending a cease and desist letter to a Minnesota carpet-cleaning company for sending tweets with well wishes to 11 Minnesotans representing the U.S. in Rio and letters to advertisers using hashtags that incorporated Olympic references.
Advertisers should also be mindful of Rule 40, which prohibits the use of Olympic athletes in advertising during the Olympics “blackout” periods (February 1 through February 28, 2018 for the Winter Olympics, and March 3 through March 21, 2018 for the Paralympic Winter Games), unless the advertiser properly applied for an advance waiver from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and adheres to certain advertising guidelines. In order for advertisers to have obtained the waiver, they must have submitted initial campaign concepts to the USOC by August 1, 2017 for the Olympics, and November 15, 2017 for the Paralympics, among meeting other requirements.
TIP: The USOC and IOC actively enforce their rights to the Olympic marks and athletes participating in the Olympics. Advertisers should avoid using Olympic marks or in any way implying affiliation with the Olympic Games unless they are an official Olympic sponsor, nor should advertisers reference participating athletes without first meeting Rule 40 requirements.