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Rio2016 Hashtag Trademark Controversy

Rio2016 Hashtag Trademark Controversy


The 2016 Rio Olympics has already had a shaky start, banning athletes, unfinished accommodation, and now there is a hashtag trademark controversy. The Olympic trademark is protected by a statute over and above any normal trademark and covers all elements of the brand including mottos, the rings and the Olympic Flame. The organisers of the Rio Olympics and the U.S Olympic Committee (USOC) added some additional marks in 2013 – the hashtags #rio2016 and #teamUSA.  

In a move to protect the official sponsors such as Coca Cola, Visa, Samsung etc, the USOC legal team have taken what might be seen a quite firm legal tactics to prevent the hashtags being used by commercial entities. 

Any company using the hashtags has been contacted via the legal team stating they may not post about the Trials or Games on their social media accounts using the hashtags – which apparently includes a ban on retweeting official content. 

The USOC would certainly have a case if the entity was claiming to be a sponsor of the 2016 Olympics, but simply supporting the games on social media is less clear-cut – although that doesn’t seem to have stopped their legal teams. Most hard hit are the sponsors of the individual Olympians, who have been reprimanded for posting pictures of their sponsored athlete at the trials – seriously limiting the opportunities to leverage the sponsorship.  

It will be interesting to see how the legal teams deal with the onslaught of social media posts over the next month.

You can contact Downing IP on 01494 422626 with any Trademark requirements you might have.

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