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Warning: Don't Use Trademarked Olympic Hashtags, Images

With all of the hype and public attention paid to the Olympics, you and your employees should be aware of the rules that govern the use of hashtags and images related to the Olympic games. The U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have historically been very aggressive in policing any use of the Olympic trademarks, images, and hashtags. This year’s games are no exception. 

In the last few weeks, the USOC has sent a number of letters to companies that sponsor athletes (who now happen to be Olympians) but have no sponsorship relationship with the USOC or the IOC warning them not to discuss the games on their corporate social media accounts. Companies have specifically been told that they cannot use the trademarked hashtags "#Rio2016" or "#TeamUSA" in any of their postings. The letters also warn companies not to reference Olympic results or to repost or share anything from the official Olympic social media accounts, this includes use of any Olympic photos, logos, or even congratulatory posts to Olympic athletes. While media companies are largely exempt, all other commercial entities should carefully monitor their social media accounts for any Olympic commentary. 

Olympic trademarks are the subject of intense legal protections around the world and the IOC and USOC will pursue alleged offenders regardless of their size. In fact, previous enforcement actions have ranged from trademark suits against small restaurants with the word "Olympic" in their names to issuing cease and desist letters to companies that used trademark hashtags such as #Sochi2014 during past games. Guidelines about Olympic brand usage can be found by clicking here.

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About this Author

Jennifer E. Hoekel, Intellectual Property Attorney, Armstrong Teasdale law firm

A member of the firm’s Intellectual Property Litigation practice group and a registered U.S. patent attorney, Jennifer Hoekel focuses on patent litigation.

Finding her general litigation background to be an asset in this practice area, she has litigated patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, unfair competition and license acquisition matters, in state, federal and appellate courts throughout the U.S. Her cases involve mechanical, electrical, chemical and business method patents in such varied subject matter as cholesterol inhibiting substances, highway roadside safety...

Donna Schmitt, Intellectual Property Attorney, Armstrong Teasdale Law Firm

As a member of the Intellectual Property practice group, Donna Schmitt strategically manages global trademark portfolios.

Businesses in a variety of industries look to Donna to handle domestic and foreign trademark prosecution and for guidance on trademark selection, use, registration, policing, protection, infringement and enforcement. She also advises on trade dress and copyright matters as well as brand expansion through trademark licensing. Donna counsels on domain name registration and use of trademarks and copyrights in social media.

As part of her practice, Donna works to identify trends and new enforcement tools to address counterfeiting to curb the sale and distribution of counterfeit and knockoff products from electronics to personal care items.