The Olympic Games 2016 which take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 5 to 21 August are supported by a huge volume of marketing and advertising campaigns. As many countries have done before, Brazil enacted special legislation to protect the Olympic symbols and expressions specific to the games hosted in Rio. The protection offered in these Olympic-special legislations often can go beyond what would normally be available under trademark or copyright protection laws. For example, the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 created a sui generis right of association to prevent the use of any representation that is likely to suggest an association between the London Olympics and goods or services.
Germany, as another example, also put some special legislation into place. However, a company that had offered "Olympic discounts" in its advertisements during the 2008 games was found not to infringe the German Olympic Protection Act. The German Federal Supreme Court ruled that, unlike trademark protection, the Olympic Protection Act did not grant legal protection to the advertising function of the Olympic symbols. Therefore, a mere time-related reference like "Olympic discounts" did not lead to infringement.
The Brazilian Olympic Act
Under the Brazilian Olympic Act (Federal Law No 12,035/2009), as amended by the Brazilian Federal Law No 13,284/2016, the Olympic symbols are granted special temporary protection. These include emblems, flags, anthems, mottos, mascots and torches used by the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympics Committee and the Association Rio 2016, charged with the organization of the Games. The protected symbols also include various expressions such as Olympic Games, Paralympic Games and Rio 2016 – in any language. However, unlike the London Olympic Act, for example, the Olympic symbols are all subject to protection under trademark law. The protection period shall begin with registration of the symbols with the Brazilian National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) and extend until 31 December 2016.
The use of such symbols is prohibited, even for non-commercial purposes, except if authorized by the International Olympic Committee or the Association Rio 2016. Furthermore, the act prohibits the use of terms and expressions that, albeit outside the list of protected symbols, are sufficiently similar to them to the extent that they are able to invoke an undue association of any products and services whatsoever, or even any event or company, with the Rio 2016 Games or the Olympic Movement.
During the time of protection, requests for registration of trademarks that constitute a reproduction or an imitation of the official symbols or are likely to cause any confusion or association with the organizing entities or the official symbols, shall be rejected. In addition, the INPI shall inform the responsible entity for the registration of domain names in Brazil, NIC.br, of all registered trademarks, so that any requests for registration of domain names containing terms or expressions identical or similar to the trademarks be refused ex officio.
Enjoy the Games!
Even though the legislation may have arrived a bit late (Federal Law No 13,284/2016 was published on 10 May 2016), the Olympic Act provides a solid framework for the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights related to the Olympic games. So, all that is left for corporate sponsors or fans of the Olympics is to enjoy the Games!
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