Intellectual Property Rights and the Olympics

Whilst everyone is watching the main sporting drama of the events at the London Olympics this year, the event will also demonstrate the benefits that can be achieved by having a monopoly created by Intellectual Property Rights (IP Rights).

The Olympics provides a number of marketing opportunities for companies but, as you would expect the International Olympic Committee keep a keen eye on the IP Rights associated with the Olympics. 

The Olympic organisers are very conscious of the need to maintain exclusivity for the main sponsors of the events, as they have invested substantial sums of money for that exclusivity.  In particular, the Brand Protection Team will be watching to ensure that any attempts at “ambush marketing” are headed off, and will also be explaining to smaller traders why unauthorised use of the Olympic symbols is not permitted as it dilutes the distinctiveness of those symbols.

Dummett Copp LLP are very pleased that David Copp, one of our founding partners, has been seconded to join the Brand Protection Team for the London 2012 Olympic Games.  David, a keen sailor, will be based at Weymouth (the sailing venue) for the Paralympic Games and is still waiting to hear where he will be stationed for the main Olympics.

Whilst the Brand Protection Team may restrict the activities of some companies, other businesses may be benefiting from their own Intellectual Property Rights at the Olympics.  Companies may be using their own patents to ensure that they are the sole supplier of products to the elite Olympians.  For example, in 2008, Speedo owned numerous patents relating to the LZR swimsuit and 98% of all medals won at the Beijing Olympics were won by swimmers wearing this swimsuit.

As in all industries, progress is essential and, since Roger Bannister’s sub 4 minute mile on a cinder track in 1954, modern running tracks have developed significantly following a patent for a paving material filed in 1962 by 3M, the company who also gave us the Post-it note.  Interestingly, one of the inventors of this new ‘springy’ paving material also created Scotch Tape. This year one particular athlete could benefit from the innovation of a device originally patented in 1992. Oscar Pistorius, the “Blade Runner”, could become the first athlete in history to win medals at both the Olympic and the Paralympic Games.   

Whilst these are specific examples, London 2012 will serve to demonstrate how your company could use Intellectual Property Rights to achieve a competitive advantage within your business arena.