An Olympic Knockout to Curb IP Theft?

The Olympic Committee implements two innovations to curb IP theft.
  • Ø Rule 40 allows athletes to appear with Non-official sponsors
  • Ø Two-tiered ticketing combats counterfeit theft
Every four years thieves hit the street, and now theInternet, to make a quick buck off the work of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and its affiliate groups.
The feverish anticipation, pride-swelling attention, and raucous cheers (or boos) have been yours for free. But, the Games including the meticulous planning to create the accompanying trademarks that bring viewers and revenue come at a price. This year the IOC implemented two new strategies to curb IP theft: two-tiered pricing and an update to rule 40.
Usually official merchandise to commemorate the quadrennial event come at a steep price. Official vendors can charge so much precisely because of the demand created by the brand – you’d pay more for a 2016 Rio Olympic T-shirt than you would for one marked 5th Quadrennial World Federation of Neuro-Oncology Societies (coming to Zurich in 2017).  The IOC hopes to raise $300 million in merchandise revenue this year.
Products marked with the brand without permission are counterfeits and those that produce them and sell them are thieves. Ordinarily, ambivalent consumers would forgo such products if it wasn’t for the offer-you-can’t refuse price.
Not anymore. This time the Committee has sought to corner the market on branded products by offering a two-tiered system. At the mega-store in the center of Olympic action an official T-shirt sold for $30, while down the road a similar shirt, albeit with less panache, went for $13; each are approved and adorned with the official ringed trademark. Consumers are advised to look for the official hologram to know real from fake.
This strategy probably won’t work to curb illegally branded illicit substances, such as cocaine.
Criminal activity runs with other criminal activity, another reason to protect intellectual property. Unfortunately websites do not have a foolproof hologram. Well, they are supposed to, but while you might guess that Brazil is the home of Samba, you might not guess that Brazil is the second largest cybercrime generator in the world and cybercrime is the number one economic crime in the country.
Sophisticated criminal syndicates lured unsuspecting fans with search engine optimization strategies to professional looking ticket sale websites. There, equipped with SSL certification, they steal identity and financial information instead of provide tickets.
On another front the IOC has opened up Rule 40 which concerns sponsorship. When commercial firms tweet to or post pictures of athletes, even use them in commercials, during the Olympics, let’s be honest, they are using the brand of the Olympics to drive attention to their products. Olympians may only sponsor official Olympic sponsors during the games, except this year if they applied and were awarded permission. Rule 40 was expanded and became famous after Michael Johnson donned a pair of golden Nikes when he broke the world record and won gold in the 400m dash. While a triumph for Nike, Reebok who had paid the $50 million to be an official sponsor felt swindled.

Ironically, even with the new rules now being enforced for Olympic related hashtags, athletes were free to choose their own non-uniform apparel during the games.  Nike has bitten the bullet and become an official sponsor supplying the golden shoes Bolt used to break Johnson’s records and achieve the triple-triple. However, Usain Bolt might be the athlete to take full advantage of the Rule 40 changes and go home with a gold in business. Besides spotting Bolt on the track you might have spotted him endorsing Al Nippon Airways (a non-official sponsor). He, as well has his own team of lawyers ready to take legal action against any unauthorized uses of his intellectual property including the “to the world” pose.