The Olympic hashtag debate and trademarks

As the countdown to the Olympic Games in Rio continues, a new debate is heating up about who can use trademarked hashtags in social media. The United States Olympic Committee recently sent letters to those who sponsor athletes warning them to not post using hashtags including #TeamUSA and #Rio2016, stating that those phrases are trademarked. The case is an interesting example of trademark law, according to Amelia Rinehart, a professor at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law. Rinehart, who teaches contracts, patent Law, intellectual property survey and intellectual property workshop courses at the U, says the case is unique because the games have actual legislation making their trademarks stronger than ordinary registered marks. “I imagine the question will be whether the “non-sponsor” (as they are calling them) is “using the mark for the purpose of trade, to induce the sale of any goods or services” by simply bragging about their Olympic athlete’s accomplishments,” says Rinehart.  “Hard to argue they are not? But their policy also seems overly restrictive as they are saying that retweets and hashtags are infringement.” Rinehart is available to further discuss the intricacies of the case with media.
Amelia Rinehart | | 801-581-6034