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Vancouver Olympics 'Brand Protection Guidelines' Almost Entirely Arbitrary

from the where-do-we-include-the-drake-equation dept

Marcus Carab writes “VANOC (the Vancouver Olympics organization) has a 22-page booklet on their site covering trademark issues around the Olympics.

Most of it isn’t new, but I found the description of their method (starts on page 12) to be very interesting. They describe a rubric with six categories that they use to determine if any given reference to the Olympics is potentially infringing. There are a few things about the method that stood out to me (beyond the broader fact that they are essentially attempting to rewrite trademark law as they see fit):

  • Each category is scored from 1 to 3, with a lower score being ideal. There is no option for zero in their ranking, and yet the final grading scale begins with “Unlikely to Infringe” rather than “Not Infringing”
  • They offer a bunch of examples and walk you through the math, then they ignore the outcome in some of them. Seriously. A bakery called “Olympic Bakery” that has existed since 1965 scores a 10 out of 18 on their system (“potential infringement”). Almost as if they realized how ridiculous that was while writing it, they decided to say it falls under “unlikely to infringe” even though it very clearly doesn’t by their own math. A few pages later, a Winter Festival scores a “potential infringement”, but they class it as “likely to infringe” with no explanation given.

Mostly this is just the same old Olympic shenanigans, but I found this booklet quite illustrative of just how ridiculous things can get.”

It sounds kind of like the way they judge some of the events in the Olympics themselves.

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Comments on “Vancouver Olympics 'Brand Protection Guidelines' Almost Entirely Arbitrary”

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dwind (profile) says:

Where does the money go?

The Olympics makes a bundle of money for someone or something.
Where does it all go? I don’t see their expenses as being all that high. Each country pays for it’s own athletes and the host country furnishes the arenas, etc. so where does all the money they – the Olympic committee for lack of a better description – go? They get billions of $$$$.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Speaking of trademark abuse and the Olympics… have you seen the new Subway ad featuring Michael Phelps?

Even though it’s clearly an ad about Michael Phelps competing in the Olympics, it never mentions the Olympics, any sort of competition, a special event, or even Vancouver.

Jared says, “See you there.”

And the voice-over says Phelps eats Subway “so he can get to where the action is.”

It’s quite obvious that somebody’s lawyers went through the ad and removed any possible reference to the Olympic games. Even though trademark allows the use of trademarks in relation to facts.* And it’s clearly a fact that Phelps will compete.

* Playboy Enterprises, Inc. v. Welles, 279 F.3d 796, C.A.9 (Cal.),2002 No trademark infringement for use of the trademarked phrase “playmate of the year” where the use was by a former playmate of the year.

The Anti-Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You have to be careful with the Welles decision, as it is very narrow to a very specific type of fact: An award given or a title held.

The Olympics is an event, and they are (obviously) very trademark happy. To have a commercial that involves the olympics from a company that isn’t paying to be the “official long breaded sandwich company of the 2010 winter games” could imply some sort of relationship that doesn’t exist. It would also diminish the value of the rights that other companies paid for.

Actually, Mr Phelps won’t be competing in Vancouver (unless they have some sort of frozen swimming pool even I wasn’t aware of).

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually, Mr Phelps won’t be competing in Vancouver…

Wow, you’re right. I have to admit, I’ve never watched much of the Olympics so I’m quite ignorant of it. (If the sport doesn’t invovle a pig-skin-covered ball, I don’t watch it.)

So he’s not competing in the Olypmpics. Thus the failure to mention the Olympics and Vancouver actually makes a lot of sense.

However, the premise of the ad makes no sense. Why does it say he’s “going to where the action is” if he’s not going to compete?! He’s going to watch, dressed in his swimwear?!

Now I’m completely confused. Thanks for pointing out my error.

for the copyright retarded says:


i hereby put on record that there use of the WORD olympics is OUT OF COPYRIGHT IN CANADA as it was 1st done in ancient times and as early as the early 30’s thus all there stuff is by LAW NOT COPYRIGHTABLE IN CANADA as we have 50 year copyright and thus goes back only too , yup you guessed it 1960.

I WOULD LIKE some richer prick to take that on too cause us poor folk can’t afford there BULLSHIT LIES.
it is not a games show and it is supposed to emulate if not BE like the ancient games but with modern twists.

for the Trademark retarded says:


This article was about Trademark it has nothing to do with Copyright. Please try to understand the difference between the two. “The Olympic Games” in name is an asset that is owned by the IOC (a corporation), just as the name “Mickey Mouse” is still Trademarked by the Disney Corporation. The IOC does not want someone to use the Olympic name in a way that either diminishes the brand or which shows some possible endorsement from the IOC without an agreement.

wvhillbilly (profile) says:


In the USA, copyright is automatic on everything (even your baby’s scribbling on a piece of paper) and is for all practical purposes forever. Yes, the current term is life of the author plus 70 years, but that gets extended all over again on every copyrighted work every time the copyright on Mickey Mouse is about to expire, so it might as well be forever. Buh-bye, public domain.

As for trademark, generic words are not supposed to be eligible for trademark protection, but it is done anyway. Some examples:
-Monster Cable, which claims exclusive rights on “Monster” and for years has been suing anybody and everybody who used the word “monster” in any commercial context. Victims ranged all the way from a mom and pop clothing store to Walt Disney for the movie, “Monsters Inc.”
-Microsoft, which owns trademark rights on “Windows”, and sued Lindows for infringing its trademark, then ended up paying Lindows a bundle of money to change its name to Linspire when it found out it was in danger of losing trademark status for “Windows”.
-I think it was Deckers (someone please correct me if I’m wrong) that trademarked the work “Ugg” in the USA, then took off suing the pants off of of Australian shoemakers who had been using the word in a generic sense for 30 years prior to that for the inside-out sheepskin boots they made.

Anybody know of any more such instances of trademark abuse? Let’s hear it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Didn’t anyone actually read the document? it says.
“, the Government of Canada has recently enacted legislation – the Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act (“Act”) – to specifically protect the Olympic/Paralympic Brand in Canada.”
Under the Act, certain marks that comprise the Olympic/Paralympic Brand are specifically protected as Statutory Marks.
So rather than use copyright law per say, they used the Gov’t to enact legislation for a specific use.
Of course this is similar to what the RIAA and others are trying to do ( manipulate the system thru ACTA talks, but at least the Olympic organizers were above board and open about what they were doing.

k3fs (user link) says:

I won't be going or watching

This whole mess has grown, and grown, and grown and grown out of control in the years leading up to this debacle.

To the point.. I will not watch or support any thing related to this even in this location or any other, and will actively encourage and strive to prevent the event to be held any where in the US.

Just go away! ! I don’t care if its a trademark, a copyright or IP.. its ALL 100% BS! And needs to a die a quick painful death.

william (profile) says:

The other day I was listening to the radio and they had a commerical for a local big Honda (or was that Toyota) dealership.

This particular commercial caught my attention because it goes along the line of this…

Announcer1: Come to our dealership to check out our newsest 2010 Toyota models.
Announcer2: Hold on announcer1, are you sure that’s safe to say. Perhaps we should better check.
Announcer1: Well, our line up for 2010 will definately not disappoint you, book a test drive and you’ll see
Announcer2: well announcer1, we surely should have check that before we say it, but regardless, come to our dealship and look at our new Toyota models, this year’s model will surely impress you.

The above back-and-forth would make absolutely NO SENSE, if it weren’t for the face that the stupid government granted VANOC special trademark protection for Vancouver2010, Vancouver olympics, 2010…etc, anything to do with 2010.

I applaud the dealer for daring to put this kind of commercial on air. Let’s hope they really did check with VANOC before they air it *end sarcasm*

=====Olympic Rant================
I live in GVRD and the Olympic is really pissing me off.

I take transit and everyday I see more and more and more ad display case being set up on each of the stop. It’s like they are cramming them in every space possible, even if it’ll be esthetically displeasing. It’s a balant commercialism that has nothing to do with sports or the original olympic spirits. The biggest irony is with all those “selling out” behaviour, the city, the province and Canada are probably going to lose millions of dollars still and we’ll be paying for them for years to come. And who gets to walk away clean? The IOC and those corporate sponsors.

being a Canadian, swearing is not really in my daily vocabulary but I couldn’t help but call those ppl F*****G BAST***S.

Martin says:

Epic display of doped athletes

What Olympics is really about:
For over 50 years now Olympics is not sporting, but chemical and bio-engineering event.
So these roidtards can as well ban use of Dopics or Roidlympics.

This is a message I get from their efforts:
This event and everything around is so proprietary, one feels uninvited and belittled by these controlling efforts.

As long as there is at least single immoral act present, efforts like these should be called “Corporate Fascism”.

Here is my Copyrighted term: “Olympics is event of Doped Athletes controlled by Fascist Management”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Epic display of doped athletes

True. Most people who enter into this lifestyle are the product of another’s dreams or aspirations, and often have trouble re-entering real life.

See Michael Phelps. All he had to do was pull a Thorpe was before all the controversy, and say life’s worth living. Let me catch up with my friends.

Reintroducing an Olympic-level athlete into what constitutes “real life” is quite difficult. Just look at a hardened athlete such as Lance Armstrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Epic display of doped athletes

I guess, the point is that we should let them have their moment, and if they show up at your doorstep to let you know they’re marrying your sister, we shoul look beyond it, and know that if they can commit to a sport for 20 some-odd years, they can probably commit to a marriage regardless of what they did in the Olympic Cottage. Heh.

Anonymous Coward says:


Grandfathering long-standing use: Businesses which used the word “Olympic” (or similarly protected terms) in their names or marks prior to March 2, 2007 will be grandfathered, provided that subsequent use of the protected term is not expanded and the business is not otherwise creating a misleading business association with the Olympic/Paralympic Brand.

John (profile) says:

How about McDonalds?

I heard a story about how McDonalds (the burger chain) was trying to shut down a Scottish restaurant with the same name. The place was is Scotland and it had been operating in a tiny village since the 1600’s (or maybe 1700’s) and no one outside of the village really knew or cared about the place… until the burger chain decided the place was “violating their trade name” or some such.
Can anyone verify this story or is just an urban legend?

And how can the IOC (or anyone else) even claim to be able that a restaurant which opened in 1965 somehow violates the trademark of the 2010 Olympics? Since when is trademark retro-active? Gee, it was nice enough for them to say it was “not infringing” or however they put it.
While they’re at it, why not sue half the businesses in Olympia, Washington just because they have similar sounding names?

chelleliberty (profile) says:

Canadian Swearing, eh?

I tried to pronounce that and didn’t find it as relevant as the american equivalent. 😉

But, I used the ss64.com Pronunciation Guide for Unix and I did find “fastergemspiderbugdingleg baststarglobtwinkles” to be quite satisfying.

Just rolls off the tongue, here it is in a sentence: “Now if we can just get those fastergemspiderbugdingleg asswipes at the double-A’s out of our hair…” (Wait, what’s Canadian for ‘asswipe’?)


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