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    Olympics Brand Protection Gone too Far?
    Posted: 2012-08-08 05:00:05

    Hosting Olympic Games has always been a controversial subject matter. Anything from funding the Games to the scoring systems has been criticized. Recently, attention has shifted to how Olympic logos can or cannot be used by non-official sponsors, such as small business owners and street merchants.

    Generally, anything from the mascots, the flame to the ‘O’ rings is protected by intellectual property laws. These symbols, which have become synonymous with the longstanding Olympic movement, cannot always be used liberally, especially in the context of doing business or trading goods. A special licence or permission is needed to use and display them.

    For the 2012 games, the London Organizing Committee has issued a Brand Protection guide that explains how common Olympic logos can be used. Although it sounds like a fairly standard thing to do, after reading it, it soon becomes clear that almost any use of the Olympic Rings, the words “2012 Olympics” or a simple connotation to the London Olympic Games is illegal. Even the appearance of words such as “Olympics”, “gold, silver, bronze”, or “Sponsor” on a display (like a poster) can be candidates for a warning or a fine from the authorities.UK has even passed the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006, which imposes criminal sanctions and fines of £20,000 on those who conduct advertising or street trading using the logos without a licence.

    The Organizing Committee claims that these laws are necessary because they help raise private funds to pay for the games. Those companies that pledge to become sponsors arguably look to do so only if they get exclusive rights to associate themselves with the Olympic Games. There are also fears that the large amount of promotion that events like Olympic Games bring can encourage free riding by small businesses or merchants.

    These arguments are certainly plausible. Hosting the Olympic Games is done for the world, which is not a cheap thing to do. Clearly, someone has to pay for them. However, sanctioning the use of traditional Olympic logos may have gone too far. For example, there are reports thatLondon’s police has confiscated merchandise, which displayed ‘O’ Rings and asked small business owners to stop displaying anything that resembles or is associated with the Olympic Games. In retaliation, some businesses have started modifying the logos.

    Should the Olympic Games not benefit everybody? Should there not be a better balance of interests? People often justify hosting the Games by arguing that they boost local economies of the hosting countries. This means that, ideally, everyone would get a chance to participate in the event and take advantage of it, including using the Olympic symbols and icons. Although some brand protection is necessary to entice funding of the event, Olympic organizing committees need to remember that the Games should engage as many people as possible, including small business owners, to make the event successful.

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