With the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games just three months away, it is important to remember that the unauthorized commercial use of any Olympic trademarks, logos, or symbols, as well as any advertising tending to suggest any connection with the Olympics, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), is prohibited by a federal law enacted in 1998, which grants exclusive rights to all Olympic marks to the USOC. Protected marks and symbols include Olympiad, Olympic, Team USA, Olympian, Sochi 2014, the Olympic flame, Torch, Flag, “Citius Altius Fortius,” the Olympic mascots, and the Olympic rings.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is also a little over six months away. FIFA is equally aggressive in policing the organization’s trademarks, logos, and symbols. FIFA marks and symbols include FIFA, World Cup, Brazil 2014, Football World Cup, Soccer World Cup, Copa 2014, “Host City” names + 2014 (e.g. Rio 2014, etc.), the Fan Fest logo, the official emblem, mascot and slogan “All In One Rhythm.”

The USOC has also taken action against companies who are not official sponsors when it believes that advertising implies affiliation with the Olympics. For example, the USOC previously alleged that a Subway television advertisement falsely implied that Subway is affiliated or associated with the Olympics. The commercial featured Michael Phelps swimming across an animated map toward Canada accompanied by a voiceover that states that Phelps is swimming to "where the action is this winter." The USOC characterized Subway's commercial as "ambush marketing" and an attempt to associate Subway with the Olympics and "benefit from an association with the Olympic marks without providing any financial support to America's athletes and the global Olympic movement." FIFA has also been active in policing its rights. In 2010 FIFA accused a Dutch beer brand of “ambush marketing” involving an incident where approximately 30 women wearing identical orange dresses, attended the game.

TIP: The USOC and FIFA actively enforce their rights to the Olympic and FIFA marks respectively. Advertisers should not use these marks or in any way imply affiliation with the Olympic Games or World Cup unless they are an official sponsor. Furthermore, tickets to the Olympic Games or World Cup should not be used as prizes in sweepstakes or contests without permission.