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With each new Olympics, new athletes are honored, new records are set and new accomplishments are achieved. And new laws are enacted. As the games become more global, sponsorship deals get more lucrative and marketers get more creative, efforts to protect the Olympic brand have intensified. Lawyers from London to Beijing have been working to help host cities and potential clients maneuver through a maze of intellectual property, trademark and other laws designed to protect the world’s biggest sporting event. “As the scale and the scope of the Olympic Games increase and reliance on private sector funding increases, so too does the concern about ambush marketing,” said Dorothy Byrne, an attorney who is Vancouver 2010′s vice president and corporate secretary. “Ambush marketing” refers to attempts to undermine sponsorship or licensing rights by misrepresenting an association with a product or an event. China gets serious China has often come under fire for copied goods, but it has taken seriously its duty to protect Olympic symbols for the 2008 Summer Games, said Kelly Crabb, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Morrison & Foerster, the only non-Chinese law firm hired by Beijing’s organizers. “They are very proud to be hosting the Olympics and are very serious about protecting the marks and symbols of the Olympic movement by avoiding ambush marketing,” Crabb said. The State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China said Beijing officials have already seized 28,000 illegally produced Olympic mascots. Host cities are responsible for protecting the Olympic brand and companies’ sponsorship and licensing rights, which help fund the games. For the 2012 London Olympics, organizers have estimated commercial sponsorship revenue alone could reach $1.5 billion. Companies have been known to push the limits and find ways to associate themselves with sporting events such as the Olympics. In the 1984 Los Angeles Games, Fujifilm was the worldwide film sponsor, but Kodak was the official film of the U.S. track and field team, according to Crabb. During the 1994 World Cup, Adidas was the official sponsor, but Puma flew a plane over the venue with an ad, he said. Companies have also been known to acquire buildings near Olympic venues and paint them in ads or fly banners from them, he said. While laws already exist to protect Olympic symbols, Beijing, London and Vancouver have all enacted legislation designed to further protect the Olympic movement. These laws often aim to crack down on ambush marketing and close any loopholes in existing legislation. The London Olympics Association Right seeks to help prevent nonsponsors from associating with the Olympics. For example, the law states that courts may consider certain phrases as infringement, such as combining the number 2012 with the words “gold, silver, bronze.” The IP future “It’s probably fair to say this really is the future of very big sporting events where different countries and cities are involved,” said David Brooks, a senior associate in the intellectual property department of London’s Taylor Wessing. “It’s likely the organizers will absolutely insist this kind of legislation must be enacted if they want any chances to win the bid.” London’s original bill was so strict that a pub urging patrons to “come and watch the London Olympics” could have been in violation, but the rules were relaxed by the final version, Brooks said. Still, it is uncertain how courts could interpret some associations, so companies need to be very careful, Brooks said. The city has shown it is serious about ambush marketing by warning potential violators, such as a law firm that advertised having an “Olympic group” in its marketing materials, said Charles Lloyd, who heads Taylor Wessing’s intellectual property department in London. “We’re still far off, but there have been already some cases of people brought to order,” said Lloyd, whose firm expects to advise a number of clients interested in sponsorship and other opportunities with the games. In Canada, the Parliament passed legislation to prevent ambush marketing and the infringement of Olympic and Paralympic words and symbols in preparation of the Vancouver Winter Games. Among other things, the bill lists a number of Olympic logos and slogans and warns against their illegal use as well as misrepresentation of a commercial entity’s association with the games. “From a legal perspective, the key is the legislation gives us the ability to seek injunctive relief against ambushers,” Byrne said.

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