Marketers will have to think long and hard before pursuing any campaigns that remotely evoke the Olympic Games. Bill C-47, the Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act, received Royal Assent on June 22, 2007. The Act provides extensive protection to the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC) and the Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC), as well as their sponsors, to guard against unauthorized use of Olympic trade marks and what is commonly referred to as "ambush marketing."
The Committees and their sponsors will be able to obtain interim or interlocutory injunctions without having to bear the onus of proving that they will suffer irreparable harm. Further, until the end of 2010, the legislation prohibits companies from promoting or directing public attention to their businesses, wares or services in a manner that misleads or is likely to mislead the public into believing that the companies are authorized by the COC or the CPC or that the companies have a business association with the Committees.
To determine whether a company has violated this provision, the new law directs the court to consider whether certain expressions, set out as a schedule, are used in combination. For instance, use of "Games" and "Medals" together, or "Gold" and "Medals," would be considered by the court to determine whether the business has acted contrary to the legislation. It is worth noting that an Olympic athlete is allowed to use the words "Olympic" or "Olympian" in reference to his or her selection or participation in the Games, and may authorize others to do so. It remains unclear whether such athletes can also reference what medal, if any, they have won or are hoping to win.