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Olympic Trademark

What’s in an Olympian Trademark?

Lindokuhle Mkhize

Lindokuhle Mkhize

29 September 20233 min read

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Olympic trademark

Did you know trademark registration plays a crucial role in the Olympics and Winter Olympic Games? This article explores the significance of trademark registration and its impact on the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), host countries, businesses, athletes, and the overall branding strategy.

Why trademarks matter in the Olympic Games:

The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) funds its operations using trademark filings and licensing agreements. Why? Well, because the US government doesn’t provide direct funding. The USOC owns the trademarks for the Winter Olympics and ensures their protection through trademark registration.

The role of international Olympic committees

Each host country’s National Olympic Committee creates the logo for the Olympic Games, which is then owned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC files trademark applications for the city’s name and year of the games during the bidding process. This trademark filing is a significant step in securing the official Winter Olympics trademark.

For instance, during the 2018 Winter Olympics, the IOC registered the world trademark for PyeongChang, the host city. Simultaneously, the USOC filed for the US trademark of the official PyeongChang logo. This registration ensures the exclusive use of the logo and allows the IOC and USOC to generate revenue through licensing agreements.

Trademark registration by the USOC for Summer Olympics:

The USOC plays a vital role in trademark registration for the Olympic Games, filing applications for trademarks in the United States, and other ways. For example, in preparation for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the USOC filed trademark applications for wordmarks such as Tokyo 2020, Madrid 2020, and Istanbul 2020. 

These applications ensure protection of the Olympic Games branding in the United States.

Exceptions in trademark filings:

Interestingly, not all trademark applications are opposed by the IOC.

The case of Austin 2020 is an example where the IOC didn’t oppose the application for advertising the Olympic Team Trials. However, since Austin wasn’t chosen as a host city, the application has been abandoned due to lack of use in commerce.

Addressing potential opposition:

Trademark registrations can face opposition during the application process.

In the case of Los Angeles, chosen to host the 2028 Summer Olympics, the IOC encountered opposition from LA Gear, Inc. in their trademark application for LA 2024. To resolve the issue, the IOC agreed to remove “footwear” from its application. This strategic adjustment avoids potential conflicts and paves the way for a successful trademark registration.

Nominative fair use:

Let’s chat about something called “nominative fair use” in the context of trademark usage in the Olympics.

There are three factors to determine if the use of a mark is nominative fair use: The mark must not be readily identifiable in any other way. For example, can you say “super game” or “big game” instead of “The Super Bowl” and still be readily understood? 

The mark can only be used to the extent necessary to identify it. And the mark can’t be used in such a way as to suggest a false connection or sponsorship arrangement.

Financing the Olympic Games

Trademark law filings and licensing agreements are vital in financing the Olympic Games. The United States Olympic Committee (USOC), in particular, relies on these registrations to fund its operations, as it does not receive direct funding from the US government. 

Trademark ownership allows the USOC to generate revenue through licensing and merchandise sales.

Trademarks are a vital component

Trademark registration is vital to the Olympic Games, benefiting the USOC, host countries, competitors, and the overall branding strategy. Trademark registrations secure the exclusive use of the official logos and generate revenue through licensing agreements.

By understanding the significance of trademark registration, the Olympic Games can continue to thrive and captivate audiences worldwide.

Learn more about the interesting things you can trademark — 4 Things You Can Trademark (Other Than a Logo, Name or Slogan).


Is the word Olympian trademarked?

The trademarks for “Olympic,” “Olympian,” and “Go For The Gold,” among many other words and expressions, are owned by the USOC.

What does the Olympic symbol consist of?

The Olympic emblem is made up of five equal-sized rings that are interlaced and can be used alone, in one color, or in any combination of the five colors — left to right, blue, yellow, black, green, and red.

Can I use the Olympic logo?

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is the exclusive owner of the Olympic five interlocking rings. It’s a globally registered trademark that cannot be used without the prior written authorization of the IOC.

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Lindokuhle Mkhize, a skilled creative copywriter and content lead at Trademarkia, brings a wealth of experience in driving innovation and managing teams. With previous success in starting and growing the Innovation and Marketing department at her former creative agency, Lindokuhle boasts expertise in leadership and delivering compelling content. Based in South Africa, Lindokuhle's work focuses on key themes of creativity, effective communication, and strategic marketing.