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The olympics may be coming but olympics copyrights have been here for awhile

People looking to make a profit and explore opportunities brought by the Olympic Games should be aware that the Games are made not only of Olympic spirit but also by Olympic deep pockets.

As we approach the summer Rio Olympic Games 1-year countdown, many Brazilian and foreign entrepreneurs are getting excited about the opportunities coming with the Games. It is important to bear in mind however that the Games´ logos and several other related words are protected not only by the usual trademarks and copyrights laws but also by Law No. 12,035/2009 - “The Olympic Law”.

The Olympic Law, which came into effect on October 02, 2009, the same day that Rio was elected to host the Games provides that the federal authorities shall, within their prerogatives, act in view of controlling, monitoring and preventing unlawful acts of infringement against rights in connection with any symbols related to the Rio Olympic Games.

Sole Paragraph of section 6 of the Olympic Law defines “symbols related to the Rio Olympic Games” as:

I-                    all distinctive signs, flags, motto, emblems and anthems used by the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”);

II-                  the terms “ Olympic Games”,  “Paralympic Games”, “Rio Olympic Games 2016”, “Rio Paralympic Games 2016”,  “XXXI Olympic Games”, “Rio 2016”, “Rio Olympics” “Rio Olympics 2016”, “Rio Paralympic 2016”, and any other abbreviation or variation thereof, or any expression created for the same purpose, in any idiom, including those used in website domains;

III-                the name , emblem, flag, anthem, motto and marks and any other symbols of the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games 2016;

IV-               the mascots, trademarks, Olympic flame and any other symbols related to the XXXI Olympic Games, Rio 2016 Olympic Games and Paralympics Rio 2016.

The Olympic Law further prohibits the use of any of the symbols/names listed above, whether for commercial purposes or not, unless with prior written consent from the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games 2016 or IOC.

On top of this overreaching protection provided by the Olympic Law, the Organizing Committee  has already filed more than 1650 trademarks applications with the Industrial Property National Institute (“INPI”). In order to save all these paperwork and filing it would have been more efficient to establish that all marks, emblems, marks and symbols of the Olympic Games should be considered “highly renowned marks”, conferring upon them protection in all International classes as provided during the time of the World Cup by Law No.12,663/2012 ( the “World Cup Law”).

It is likely that the Olympic Law will be further regulated by decrees passed by Federal and State Authorities, which shall govern matters such as sale of tickets, hours of work during the Games, public transportation and punishment for violations, among others. In this regard it is worth mentioning that the unlawful use of FIFA´s trademarks and other symbols during the World Cup was considered a crime, punishable with 3 months to 1 year of imprisonment.

 Apparently no one was formally accused or convicted on these charges during the World Cup. No records of copyrights violation procedures initiated by FIFA can be found on the judicial authorities´ websites of Rio and São Paulo. Although FIFA was very keen to send Cease and Desist Letters and Extra-Judicial notification for violations, it seems that it did not have the same impetus for filing suits. Maybe IOC, whose profit with the last summer Olympic Games held in London Games was estimated in around US$ 3,5 billion will act in a similar fashion.

The World Cup generated record profits of more than R$ 16 billion (roughly US$5,3) to FIFA. For Brazil however, it seems that the much vaunted success was not translated into development and revenues. The general feeling for Brazilians is of opportunity loss which the several white elephant stadiums financed by BNDES (“Brazilian National Development Bank”) persist in reminding us. The poor economic result however cannot be ascribed to the rule of law and respect for FIFA´s copyright and trademarks, but mainly to bad planning and corruption.

Hopefully the Olympic Games will be more fruitful to Brazil´s economy and to Rio´s in particular although we already know that at least financially, IOC will be the main victor of the Games regardless the final medal table. People looking to make a profit and explore opportunities brought by the Olympic Games should be aware that the Games are made not only of Olympic spirit but also of  deep Olympic pockets.

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Eduardo Ludmer

Dual qualified lawyer in Brazil and Israel with extensive experience and expertise in handling local and cross-border legal matters primarily practicing in the areas of intellectual property, corporate and business law and international arbitration.

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