A fresh look at the Olympic properties

Author:Carlos Castro
Position:Head of Copyright and Content Affairs, International Olympic Committee

The Olympic Games are the most popular event in the world. In February, billions of spectators from across the globe will tune into three weeks of spectacular sporting action during the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea. From February 9 to 25, those familiar symbols that we associate with the Olympic Games will have the eyes of the world upon them.


The intellectual property (IP) system plays an important role in safeguarding these and the unique character of the Olympic Games, and in generating the funds required to organize one of the largest and most complex sporting events in the world. Let’s explore how and why it is so important.

Understanding the Olympic properties

The Olympic Charter identifies the Olympic flag, motto, anthem, designations, emblems, flame, torches and identifiers including but not limited to “Olympic Games” and “Games of the Olympiad” as the Olympic properties. While they are all well known, the most familiar are the Olympic rings, which enjoy a 93 percent recognition rate.

The Olympic properties encompass all rights relating to the Olympic Games in relation to the organization, exploitation and marketing of this top-tier event. These rights also cover the right to photograph or record audiovisual footage of the event for use by the media in their publications, broadcasts or platforms.

As creations of the mind that are expressed through distinctive symbols and names which may be used in commerce, the Olympic properties qualify for IP protection under laws governing copyright, trademarks and industrial designs, which together with patents, utility models and trade secrets make up the palette of IP assets that are relevant to the Olympic Games.

All IP rights associated with the Olympic properties are exclusively owned and controlled by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which plays a leading role in enhancing the Olympic values and providing material support for the organization and hosting of Olympic Games.

A key funding tool

The IOC and all organizations within the Olympic Movement, such as the National Olympic Committees, International Sport Federations and Organising Committees for the Olympic Games, are entirely privately funded. Intellectual property assets are central to a range of programs managed by the IOC to generate the revenues required to fund the Olympic Games. These include programs to manage the sale of media rights to the Olympic Games, to attract private sponsors through the TOP worldwide sponsorship program and to generate licensing income through the IOC official supplier and licensing programs.

Ninety percent of the revenues accruing from these programs are distributed by the IOC to organizations across the Olympic Movement to support the staging of Olympic Games and promote the global development of sport. The IOC, as mandated by...

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