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The Government Subsidized Olympic Trademark

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who’s the baddest Mark of Them All

If you were asked to list the most popular trademarks in the US, what would your answer be? It would likely consist of Apple, Google, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Wal-Mart, Bank of America, Microsoft, Pepsi, General Motors, Ford, Facebook, Nike and a few other household company names. When looking at such a list, what is one thing that they all have in common? They are all front and center of our daily lives. It’s a challenge to go a day without seeing those companies’ marks. We see them when we open our computer, when we drive to and from places, and when we are watching television. These companies’ trademarks are not only recognizable, they are the fabric of our social-economy.

Thus it comes as no surprise that these marks are extremely valuable. Companies recognizing this will protect their marks to the fullest extent of the law. The Lanham Act plays a major role in protecting trademarks of companies. Importantly, the Lanham Act is the best protection that these Fortune 500 companies can afford. Although, there does exists an entity which has way more protection than any corporation in the land. In effect, this entity has “super” trademark protection. This entity will never generate the revenue of a Apple or a Coca-Cola. You will not see this entity every day as you will a Ford or a McDonald’s. Heck, it’s not even a entity which has its genesis in the United States of America. Can you guess the entity? Probably not.

If you have the slightest knowledge about the policies behind trademark law, you know that your failure to guess the entity should draw red flags. The general goal behind trademark law is that the government wants to protect the goodwill of a businesses and to limit consumer confusion. Both goals are premised on the notion that an entity has invested in its mark and that the consumer is able to identify that mark as relating to a particular producer or servicer. So how has an entity who cannot advertise its mark on the scale of a Wal-Mart of General Motors, have more protection than those aforementioned companies? The answer is politics.

If you have yet figured out the entity that I am referring to--the answer is “Olympic.” You might be saying to yourself: “Olympic is a word, not an entity.” And there is the problem. Who is the producer of “Olympic” or “The Olympics”? Isn’t it NBC? Wrong, remember the earlier hint. The entity is originally foreign to the United States. If you must know, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) produces and manages both the Summer Olympics™ and Winter Olympics™. The United State Olympic Committee (USOC) is the operating organization of the IOC in the United States. Thus, USOC is the right holder of the term “olympic” and its variations. So what is this “super” trademark protection and why does the IOC have this in the United States? Additionally, what impact does this have on businesses and on the evolvement of trademark law?

“Super Trademark Protection”