Rio 2016 Olympics are starting soon. Next to the Rule 40 from the Olympic Charter, there is now the US trademark law to consider. While regulating the use of special terms and words is not new, the ban of hashtags is. In 2013, the first US applications to trademark hashtags were submitted. By now, many hashtags were added to the list of trademarked words and phrases by the USOC for the Rio 2016 Olympics. The list includes "Rio2016" and "TeamUSA". Twitter is one of the most influential social media. During sports events, tweets using popular hashtags are very common. On google, hashtags about the Rio 2016 Olympics are already trending. Some criticism of the trademarked hashtags occurred since the trademarked hashtags are very broad. A company simply wishing good luck to a team could already get in trouble. A personal sponsor of an athlete could get the athlete into trouble by tweeting to the athlete. This could hurt the meaning and spirit of the Olympics

Rule 40 and trademarked hashtags

Originally, Rule 40 was created to protect the investment of official sponsors. Further, it tries to prevent so-called 'ambush marketing', where companies who have not paid for Olympic rights try to use the Olympic games for attention and marketing purpose. Therefore, Rule 40, as well as trademarked hashtags, are supposed to be for protection. However, looking back at the origin and history of the Olympics helps to remember that the spirit of the Olympics is more than technology and marketing. 

“Olympic-related terms”

The bye-law, which is contained in the Olympic Charter, states that “Olympic-related terms” cannot be used by non-approved from 27 July until midnight on 24 August 2016. Pictures of a medal are also restricted.

According to the International Olympic committee, IOC, "Olympic-related terms" include the following, depending upon context:

  • 2016
  • Rio/Rio de Janeiro
  • Gold
  • Silver
  • Bronze
  • Medal
  • Effort
  • Performance
  • Challenge
  • Summer
  • Games
  • Sponsors
  • Victory
  • Olympian

National Olympic committees are responsible for enforcing regulations. Olympic Team GB published its guide in December, following ‘Rule 40’ with slight exceptions.

It reads in the guide: “For London 2012 and in recognition of the important role personal sponsors play in athletes’ careers, the #BOA relaxed the provisions of Rule 40 to allow athletes to appear in personal sponsors’ advertising during those Games (subject to certain conditions). Since then, the IOC has made changes to its Rule 40 Guidelines, which largely bring IOC guidance into line with the BOA’s existing position. #Athletics #Olympics2016