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Olympic domains : Protection of the City+Year word mark

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A recent lawsuit filed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) sought to secure rights to domains consisting of “City+Year” word marks.

Although the practice targeted specific candidate cities owned by a self-professed investor in geo-domains, one might be walking on thin ice when registering any such “City+Year” combinations.

In a recent article about the intellectual properties managed by the IOC, there are references to a 1993 incident that started it all:

In 1993, before Sydney was elected to host the 2000 Olympic Games, a third party sought to register all the names of the candidate cities for the 2000 Olympic Games in numerous countries and then threatened the IOC partners with legal action if they used “Sydney 2000”.

This seems to be the inverse logic from what applies today!

According to the same article, the IOC subsequently took steps to protect the “City+Year” identifiers well before a city is selected to host an edition of the Olympic Games, Summer or Winter.

But that’s not all.

The IOC web site. We had to blur the Olympic logo, just in case.

The IOC web site. We had to blur the Olympic logo, just in case.

It seems that the IOC receives “special” treatment with regards to how quickly such word marks acquire distinctiveness, the necessary element for trademark protection:

Acquired distinctiveness as a remedy for an initial lack of distinctiveness usually requires very long use in the market. However, numerous trademark offices around the world […] agreed that, in the specific case of the Olympic Games, distinctiveness can be acquired faster, and even instantly.

Given the exceptional worldwide interest in, and media coverage of, a city’s election by the IOC, distinctiveness is acquired the moment the result is announced.

In other words, don’t even try testing your luck with City+Year domain registrations, or other “Olympic domains” in hopes that you’d land the jackpot!

For the full article on “Protecting the Olympic Properties,” click here.


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