2012 – A Big Year in Sports, But be Careful

Some are already starting to look forward to the big sports event of the year: the Olympic Games in London. But before you start creating new designs to honor the event, we would like to direct your attention to the legal side of things. It is a bit tricky, so it’s really important to ensure that your shop and/or designs do not violate any copyrights.

Trademarks and logos of third parties are an absolute no-go. This applies to logos and trademarks with IOC copyrights as well as trademarks of sponsors and other parties involved. These are the most important and prominent sponsors: Olympics: BMW, Adidas, Panasonic, Omega, Samsung, Visa, among others.

You can find a comprehensive list of sponsors on the website.

In order to find out whether your design, text or name are copyright protected, you can check the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). This provides contact information for inquiries with the holders of rights:

You can also enter “Comité International Olympique“ to find out which registered trademarks these organizations have.

We also created a thread on the forum where you can post feedback, questions or suggestions.

5 comments Write a comment

  1. *AHEM*
    to quote your post, “we would like to direct your attention to the legal side of things. It is a bit tricky,”
    indeed it is, and you have got some major legal issues WAY wrong.

    “In order to find out whether your design, text or name are copyright protected, you can check the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS).”

    That tells you if they are TRADEMARKED. By the Berne Convention, they are automatically copyrighted when fixed into a permanent medium (basically, if you can see it, it’s copyrighted).

    HOWEVER, there are exemptions for copyright and trademark law.
    COPYRIGHT law (at least in the US) allows for fair use exemptions, which include parody and satire. In the US, there’s no such exception YET (it was one of the reccomendations from last years Hargreaves Review of copyright, however, and is on the subject of a current consultation.

    TRADEMARK law is in difinitive fixed areas. Omega’s trademark ( is listed as applying to “OMEGA
    Goods and Services IC 042. US 100 101. G & S: Product research and development of horological products; custom design in the field of horological products and jewellery; custom design of containers and of packages for perfumery products and for cosmetics products; custom design of fine leather goods, namely, wallets, briefcases, business card cases, credit card cases, document cases, attaché cases, key cases, mobile telephone cases, tablet computer cases, pouches, bags, backpacks, boxes and cases; custom design of sports timekeeping apparatus, instruments and installations; product research and development with respect to apparatus, instruments and installations for sports timekeeping”
    No clothing lines, so it’s unenforcable against clothing in the US.

    In EUROPE, their trademark system uses different classifications and so it’s trademark ( DOES include clothing. Specifically:
    Class 03:Perfumery, cosmetics, essential oils.Class 09:Spectacles, spectacle frames.Class 14:Precious metals and their alloys and goods in precious metals or coated therewith, jewellery, precious stones, horological instruments, in particular clocks and watches, clock and watch parts, movements for clocks and watches;chronometric instruments, cases for watches (presentation).Class 16:Pencils, nibs, pencil lead holders, ball-point pens, felt-tip pens.Class 25:Clothing, including scarves, neckties, shirts; footwear; headgear.Class 28:Games and playthings; and sporting goods.Class 35:Advertising.Class 37:clock and watch repairs.Class 38:Telecommunications.Class 41:Entertainment, sporting and cultural activities.

    However, there is also the ‘moron in a hurry’ test (, where what looks similar products would have to convince a moron in a hurry that it was the trademarked item. In the case of Omega, since they don’t make clothing, it wouldn’t matter anyway, there’s no clothing area trademark to enforce in the US (but would for the EU). It would apply more to the likes of Adidas.

    By the way, while Copyrights are international, Trademark’s are NOT. US trademarks are worthless in the EU, and vice versa.

    It’s an understandable set of mistakes to make. The misleading (and thoroughly inappropriate) term “Intellectual property” makes it seem like Copyrights and trademarks (and patents) are pretty much the same thing. They’re not. They’re all COMPLETELY DIFFERENT sets of laws, with no relationship to each other, except that both patents and trademark rights (because they’re government granted rights, not ‘property’) are administrated by the same office. and all three are exclusivity rights, intended to benefit the public (although that’s no longer the case). apart from that, there’s ZERO commonality between them (admittedly, the UK now administers all 3 from one office, but that’s a modern thing)

    Hope this basic legal primer will help get things sorted and make the actual legal positions a bit clearer. I’m sure an actual Trademark Lawyer would be able to articulate things better. I’m NOT a lawyer, just a writer that has covered these topics for about 10 years (and then specialised on copyright, and to a lesser extent, patents)

  2. Please don’t confuse copyright and trademark. Copyright protects expression. Copyright does not protect single words or short phrases. Trademark protects brands. The phrase “Olympic Games” is trademarked. It is not protected by Copyright. Logos can be protected by both. TESS lists trademark. An unofficial but easier to use site is

  3. Thanks for the tips! I heard about a few cases, where slogans with 2012 were denied, because of the Olympic Games in London. I think that’s kind of a handicap… but I’m not the one making the rules right? 😉

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