12 August 2019Christian Buchholz

Germany jurisdiction report: Fun and games with Olympic designations

On the occasion of Leipzig’s bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, the German parliament passed the German Olympic Designation Protection Act in 2004.

The act protects the Olympic emblem, ie, the Olympic rings, and the Olympic designations: the words ‘Olympiad’, ‘Olympia’, and ‘Olympic’, alone or in combination with other words including their equivalents in other languages. The IOC and the National Olympic Committee for Germany, which has been merged into the German Olympic Sports Confederation, are granted the exclusive right to use and exploit these marks. Third parties are prohibited from using the Olympic rings for (1) marking goods or services; (2) advertising goods or services; (3) as a company, business name; (4) for designating an event; or (5) for club badges or flags.

The Olympic designations or designations similar to them may not be used for these purposes if this causes a risk of confusion, including the risk that the designation is associated with the Olympic Games or the Olympic Movement. A use of such designations is also prohibited if it unfairly exploits or impairs the reputation of the Olympic Games or the Olympic Movement without justification.

Using the terms

The Federal Supreme Court recently had to decide whether the use of the words ‘olympiareif’ (Olympia-ready) and ‘olympiaverdächtig’ (Olympia-worthy) together with sporting symbols in the advertising of sportswear constitutes a violation of this prohibition.

The court ruled that this is not the case. First, it clarified that advertising using those words is not capable of causing a risk of direct confusion with the services provided or products marketed by the German Olympic Sports Confederation or the IOC.

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