25 July 2016Trademarks

US Olympic Committee accused of trademark bullying

The US Olympic Committee (USOC) has reportedly resorted to “legal bullying” tactics to try and stop non official sponsors of the Games from using Olympic-related Twitter hashtags.

The committee has contacted companies that sponsor athletes but do not have a commercial relationship with the USOC or International Olympic Committee (IOC) warning them against stealing its trademarks.

A letter written by Lisa Baird, chief marketing officer at the USOC, and obtained by media company ESPN, said: “Commercial entities may not post about the trials or games on their corporate social media accounts.

“This restriction includes the use of USOC’s trademarks in hashtags such as #Rio2016 or #TeamUSA.”

Sports brand Oiselle was one of the companies contacted. It used a photo of athlete Kate Grace, who the company sponsors, after she won a trial in the 800 metres.

The approach is designed to protect official sponsors of the games including Coca Cola, Visa, Samsung, McDonald's, GE and Procter & Gamble.

The letter also reportedly says that companies, except news organisations, can’t mention Olympic results or repost anything from the official Rio Olympics Twitter account.

In March last year, WIPR’s sister website TBO reported that the IOC had reviewed two of its rules on advertising including Rule 40.

At the time, Rule 40 said: “Except as permitted by the IOC executive board, no competitor, coach, trainer or official who participates in the Olympic Games may allow his person, name, and picture or sports performances to be used for advertising purposes during the Olympic Games.”

The rule has since been relaxed to allow athletes to appear in advertising that doesn’t explicitly mention the Olympic Games but that uses terms like “gold” or “victory”.

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