The Swami shoots and scores!

Oh, I nailed that one. A 6.0 (well, 5.9 from the East German Judge, if there were still an East Germany). 

I’m referring, of course, to my post last month about the use of the trademarked term “Super Bowl®” in ads about events or promotions around that Big Game.

No, I’m not crowing about my Super Bowl® prediction (Broncos 37, Seahawks 24), which I’m man enough to admit I completely missed. And don’t worry, I’ve heard about it from family, friends, acquaintances and random “well-wishers” from the Pacific Northwest. But I gave readers fair warning that I’m no NFL expert. (The World Cup®, on the other hand . . .)

I am, however, pleased that my track record on trademark issues far exceeds my (American) football prediction skills. And you can take this to the bank: I was right on the mark in noting that, when it comes to trademark-related issues (which abound in connection with the Super Bowl®), you need to be aware of similar issues surrounding other similar terms, like “March Madness®”, “World Cup®” and “Olympics®”.

It’s the last of those that triggers my reminder to you today, when the 2014 Winter Olympic Games officially kick off in Sochi.  And if you don’t believe me that a reminder is in order, would you believe the U.S. government if it told you the same thing? (You, over there, wearing the tinfoil hat, you don’t have to respond.) 

Sure enough, earlier this week the United States Patent and Trademark Office tweeted this friendly message:

It is, of course, nice to see the USPTO reinforcing my own admonition. But beyond the fact that this kind of tweet makes (a) the USPTO look hip and happening and (b) me look smart, there is a more serious message here.

Sure, they want you to avoid trademark issues, but they probably also want to protect their own – well, actually the USofA’s – interest in the mark.

That’s right, Uncle Sam wields exclusive control of a number of Olympics-related marks. And they’re protected not just through routine trademark registration (à la “Super Bowl®”), but also through the force of a provision of the U.S. Code, specifically 36 U.S.C. 220506(c). That section accords the United States Olympic Committee the exclusive right to use (among other things):

  • The name “United States Olympic Committee”;
  • The symbol of the International Olympic Committee, consisting of five interlocking rings;
  • The words “Olympic”, “Olympiad”, “Citius Altius Fortius”, “Paralympic”, “Paralympiad”, “Pan-American” and “America Espirito Sport Fraternite”,  as well as combinations of these words;
  • The emblem of the United States Olympic Committee; and
  • The symbols of the International Paralympic Committee and the Pan-American Sports Organization.

Since the U.S. Olympic Committee was chartered by Congress in 1950, you’re effectively taking on the U.S. Government when you infringe these marks. 

So the USPTO’s friendly tweet may not be as friendly as it seems. But it’s certainly a good reminder not to infringe those marks.