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.

Filed Under: arbitrary, brand protection, olympics, vancouver

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  1. icon
    wvhillbilly (profile), 28 Jan 2010 @ 9:42am


    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.

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