Protecting the Olympic Properties

Author:Marianne Wüthrich
Position:Trademark Senior Legal Counsel, International Olympic Committee

For 17 days in August, all eyes will be on Brazil as athletes from across the globe come together to compete in the Olympic Games Rio 2016. During this, the world’s largest and most complex sporting event, the icons of the Olympic movement – from the five interlocking rings to the Olympic mascot, Vinicius – will be central features of global media coverage. This article explores how the... (see full summary)


Olympism is a philosophy of life that places sport at the service of humankind. The Olympic Movement encompasses concerted, organized, universal and permanent action carried out by many individuals and entities who are inspired by the values of Olympism under the overall umbrella of the IOC. It brings together athletes from every continent for one of the world’s most well-known and celebrated sporting, cultural and entertainment events – the Olympic Games.

The Olympic properties are the visual ambassadors of Olympism. The Olympic symbol, in particular, is one of the world’s most recognized brands. The five interlocking rings represent the coming together of five continents and symbolize the Olympic values: Excellence, Respect and Friendship. The Olympic properties have become iconic – they are more than just “logos”. People around the world associate them with the fundamental values of sport and of the Olympic Movement.

Because of their honored place on the world stage, the IOC needs to protect its Olympic properties at the international level. The IOC benefits from special legal means to do this but it also relies on standard means of trademark protection.

The Olympic properties defined

The Olympic Charter is the codification of the Fundamental Principles of Olympism, Rules and Bye-Laws adopted by the IOC. According to Rule 7 of the Charter, the Olympic properties include the Olympic symbol as well as the Olympic flag, motto, anthem, identifications (such as “Olympic Games” and “Games of the Olympiad”), designations, emblems, the Olympic flame and torches.

All rights to any and all Olympic properties belong exclusively to the IOC, including rights to their use in relation to profit-making, commercial or advertising purposes.

Financing the Olympic Games

The IOC and the organizations that make up the Olympic Movement are entirely privately funded.

Support from the business community is crucial to the holding of the Olympic Games, one of the most effective international marketing platforms in the world, reaching billions of people in more than 200 countries and territories across the globe. The IOC distributes more than 90 percent of its revenues to organizations throughout the Olympic Movement to support the staging of the Olympic Games and to promote the development of sport worldwide.

Broadcasting the Olympic Games is the most important means of communicating the Olympic ideals worldwide. The primary broadcasting objective is to ensure that the widest possible audience has an opportunity to experience the Olympic Games. As the owner of the global rights for the Olympic Games – including broadcasts on television...

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