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"Olympics" in advertisements? Not so fast, says International Olympic Committee

With the Olympics in full swing, lots of people here in Sacramento have been swept up into a patriotic fervor. After all, watching athletes like Gabby Douglas and Ryan Lochte triumph in the name of our country is very inspiring.

Now, businesses naturally want to cash in on this tidal wave of good feeling, but the International Olympic Committee keeps a very tight grasp on all its trademarks and copyrights. This means a lot of retailers have to get...creative, shall we say.

While only official sponsors can use the words "Olympics" or "Olympiad" or the image of the interlocking Olympic rings in their advertisements, companies are free to use other imagery and associations to conjure up the games.

For example, online beauty retailer Sephora recently sent out a mass email referring to certain cosmetics as "medal-worthy," "world class" and "top-rated." Those terms call to mind winning and standing on a podium to receive a medal, of course, but they do not pertain specifically to the Olympics.

It is good that the International Olympic Committee is so vigilant. Intellectual property assets can be very beneficial, but only if a holder of those assets understands what he or she has, how to use them and how to protect them. If you have any questions on intellectual property matters, please visit the Intellectual Property Litigation portion of our website. It is not meant to answer every question you might have about intellectual property, but it should be a good basic primer.

Source: NPR, "Retailers Go For Gold By Evoking Olympic Games," Wendy Kaufman, Aug. 9, 2012

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