India: Golden Epoch Of IP Rights : "The Olympics "

Introduction

Olympic are said to be the biggest event on earth that happens in every four years. It has a viewership of around 4 billion and involves participation of around 204 countries. The significance of Olympics is not only because of the sporting events that are held but also because of the huge attention that it attracts. Olympics are seen as the biggest opportunity for the promotion of the business hence the stakes are very high. The problem of ambush marketing which is quite prevalent in all the recent sporting events is also seen as the biggest threat for the Olympics as well.

The London Olympic Games and Paralympics Games Act 2006

Nairobi Treaty on the Protection of the Olympic Symbol (1981) prohibits by appropriate measures, the use of any sign consisting of or containing the Olympic symbol, as defined in the Charter of the International Olympic Committee, as a mark or other sign, for commercial purposes, except with the authorization of the International Olympic Committee.

The rule laid down in the treaty is included by all countries in their Intellectual Property laws. However, it is significant to note that UK is not a signatory to the above mentioned treaty and has instead passed its own act, the Olympic Symbol etc. (Protection) Act 1995, which was amended by the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006, in order to make provision in connection with the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games that are about to take place in London in 2012. The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 created a new London Olympic Association Right giving the power to prevent unauthorized associations with the Games to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games [LOCOG].

Apart from the trademarks, the committee is also taking care of the IP rights related to the design, copyrights and patents. All the IP rights involved in the Olympics are substantially protected and stringent protective measures are in place for any kind of infringements.

Apart from the authorized official sponsors, not even athletes taking part in Olympics are allowed to use the IP involved in the Olympics. There are several rules in place for athletes as well as for the non-sponsor businesses such as:

Rules for athletes participating in the Olympic Games1

  • Athletes cannot make any comments on social networking sites regarding other participant's activities
  • Athletes cannot post any video or audio content on social networking sites or YouTube of either the athletes' village or the interior of any Olympic venue
  • Athletes will not be allowed to 'Tweet' or blog about what brand of energy bar or breakfast cereal they have been eating unless that brand is an official sponsor of the Games

Rules for non-sponsor businesses

  • Non-sponsor businesses are not allowed to offer tickets to the Games as part of a company promotion
  • They cannot use images which could make the public think they are in some way linked or in association with the Olympics
  • Nor can they use phrases such as "Help us to make it a Gold 2012" or "Supporting our athletes at the Olympic Games 2012"

The perspective of other countries regarding the protection of IP Rights of Olympics symbols

There are only 50 signatory countries to Nairobi Treaty on the Protection of the Olympic Symbol (1981) including India. It is significant to note that the countries who are not signatory to the above treaty also provided protection to the symbol of world and national importance and gave special treatment to the Olympic symbols.

US Law on use of Olympic symbols

The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act is a United States law (codified at 36 U.S.C. Sec. 220501 et seq. of the United States Code) that charters and grants monopoly status to the United States Olympic Committee, and specifies requirements for its member national governing bodies for individual sports. The code gives specific rights to the committee regarding the use of the Olympic symbols and governs use of the same viz the name "UNITED STATES OLYMPIC COMMITTEE"; the symbol of the International Olympic Committee, consisting of five interlocking rings; the words "Olympic, " "Olympiad" and "Citius Altius Fortius," and also the words "Paralympic," "Paralympiad," "Pan-American" and "America Espirito Sport Fraternite," or any combination of these words; the emblem of the United States Olympic Committee, consisting of an escutcheon having a blue chief and vertically extending red and white bars on the base with five interlocking rings displayed on the chief; and the symbols of the International Paralympic Committee and the Pan- American Sports Organization, consisting of a torch surrounded by concentric rings are all protected.

Law in India

The Emblems and Names (Prevention of improper use) Act, 1950

As per the law in India, any mark which is not capable of distinguishing goods or services of one person from those of another is not liable to be registered as a trademark.

Taking into consideration the above mentioned provision, the marks which are of international importance and which have their own distinctivity around the world are not permitted to be registered as a trademark in India.

In order to be protected under Emblems and Names (Prevention of improper use) Act, 1950, an emblem or name must be notified in the official gazette and included in the schedule to the Act, while the only sports –related emblem and name currently notified and protected are "the name and emblem of the international Olympic committee consisting of five interlaced rings".

Further, the Copyright Act, 1957 also provides protection to the original works of author and hence, protections to the Olympic symbols which are having artistic values are given protection. Under section 41 of the Act, special protection is provided to the works of certain international organizations. The section under sub-clause (3) specifically provides that the organizations to which this section applies are such organizations as the central government may, by order published in the official Gazette, declare to be organization of which one or more sovereign powers or the government or governments thereof are members to which it is expedient that this section shall apply.

Conclusion

Olympics are a great way to uniting the whole world and to bring it to a common platform thereby celebrating the spirit of humanity at large. The whole event is mesmerizing not only because of the huge participation of countries but also because of aura that Olympics have built since 1896 when modern Olympics were introduced. The games have turned into an event wherein the competition is not just in the field but outside the field as well. The rights related to organizing Olympics have turned into a major business venture from the point of view of generation of business. Protection of Intellectual property rights involved in the event has significance not only during the event but also afterwards. The success achieved due to promotion of the business in collaboration with Olympics have unparallel significance hence the rights have achieved enormous importance. Due to very same reason, unauthorized use of the rights such as ambush marketing has cropped up and event specific enactment such as "London Olympic Games and Paralympics Games Act 2006" has been passed to keep them in check. We hope that event should be a success and would give not only a new height to the Olympics in the field of sports but also in legal field in curbing the unauthorized use of the IP rights.

Footnote

1 http://www.ipandmedia.co.uk/stringent-ip-protectionfor-anything-olympics-related/#more-64

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