TMEP 1205.01(b): Examination Procedures for Marks Comprising Matter Related to the United States Olympic Committee or the Olympics

October 2017 Edition of the TMEP

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1205.01(b)    Examination Procedures for Marks Comprising Matter Related to the United States Olympic Committee or the Olympics

Following passage of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, 36 U.S.C. §380, unauthorized use of words and symbols associated with the United States Olympic Committee ("USOC") or the Olympics subjected the user to civil actions and remedies. In 1998, Congress amended the 1978 act to the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act ("OASA"), 36 U.S.C. §220506. In the amended Act, Congress designated certain Olympic-related words and symbols as being the exclusive property of the USOC, subject to limited exceptions. 36 U.S.C. §220506.

The USOC has the exclusive right to use the name "United States Olympic Committee" and the words "Olympic," "Olympiad," "Citius Altius Fortius," "Pan American," "Paralympic," "Paralympiad," "America Espirito Sport Fraternite," or any combination of these words. 36 U.S.C. §220506(a). The statutory protection also extends to the International Olympic Committee’s symbol of five interlocking rings, the International Paralympic Committee’s symbol of three TaiGeuks, and the Pan-American Sports Organization’s symbol of a torch surrounded by concentric rings. Id. The statute permits the USOC to authorize its contributors and suppliers to use the enumerated Olympic-related words or symbols, 36 U.S.C. §220506(b), exempts certain pre-existing uses and geographic references, 36 U.S.C. §220506(d), and allows the USOC to initiate civil-action proceedings to address unauthorized use, 36 U.S.C. §220506(c).

Proposed marks that contain the designated Olympic-related words or symbols, or any combination thereof, cannot be registered on the Principal or Supplemental Register (nor can the matter be disclaimed) and must be refused registration on the ground that the mark is not in lawful use in commerce, citing §§1 and 45 of the Trademark Act, 15 U.S.C. §§1051   and 1127, for trademark applications or §§1, 3, and 45, 15 U.S.C. §§1051, 1053, and 1127, for service mark applications, as well as the OASA. Other statutory refusals under the Trademark Act may also bar registration, such as falsely suggesting a connection under 15 U.S.C. §§1052(a)   and likelihood of confusion under 15 U.S.C. §§1052(d), and should be issued as appropriate. See TMEP §1205.01(b)(ii).