GERMAN SPORTS CONFEDERATION WENT LOST IN THE FARMYARD
Corporate events bring employees closer together and strengthen the corporation spirit. An afternoon on the farm, pitchfork throwing, tractor rally and betting sawing: no problem. But what if you call it an Olympiad? Definitely a problem, thought at least the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) who, as a licensee of the International Olympic Committee and exclusive marketer of the sponsorship rights, felt called to take action against any dilution of the Olympia brand.This time, it hit an event company offering and marketing celebrations under the catchy title „farmyard Olympiad“. The DOSB argued that the company used the good reputation of the Olympic Games for themselves without consent of the IOC and thus violated the Olympic Protection Law which, however, is only known by a few insiders. In particular, the plaintiffs were bothered by the advertising statement that the event was just as well organized as the Olympic Games (which does not necessarily have a positive meaning) and that the company would also grant corresponding licenses to competitors. Notwithstanding this fact, DOSB did not refer to any likelihood of confusion with the Olympic summer or winter games which usually form the basis for any trademark lawsuit.
However, even the Lower Regional Court of Mainz, which handled the matter in the first instance, could not recognize any sanctionable action and now the Higher Regional Court of Munich also dismissed the appeal action (Az 29 U 2333/17). The presiding judge Andreas Müller justified the dismissal of the complaint with the fact that „the invocation of mere associations to the Olympic Games is not sufficient to establish a violation of rights.“ Terms as Olympia belong to the general linguistic usage. Thus, the name alone is not enough to violate the Olympic Protection Law. Nevertheless, the boundaries are flowing. Such as in 2012, where the Lower Regional Court of Munich confirmed the rights of the German Soccer Association (“DFB”) in a similar case and prohibited the German Television Ballet to use the name „DFB Ballet“ as there was a real likelihood of confusion.
The DOSB has already announced that it will review the decision and perhaps take it to the next step, to German Supreme Court. To honor their salvation, it should be noted that they are licensees of the IOC and, therefore, forced by contract to act against unjustified uses.