Don’t say the O-word in your company’s social media posts

Don’t mention international sporting events on your company’s social media; doing so violates Australian intellectual property law.

There are some pretty exciting athletics going on in a South American city right now, but you better not talk about it on your company's social media account – or any kind of advertising, for that matter. Doing so could land you in a lot of trouble with the committee behind a certain international sporting event and Australian intellectual property law.

Every span of years when this particular event rolls around, it grabs the attention of people all around the world – even the most unathletic among us watch to see who takes home which specifically coloured object. While this may seem like an excellent opportunity to incorporate some recognisable symbols or phrases into an ad to drum up business, that is a very bad idea.

What's wrong with using those things?

The symbols, mottos, slogans and other designations of the exciting international athletic event are all protected intellectual properties, which means that they cannot be used for commercial purposes without explicit authorisation from their owner.

Symbols and slogans of this exciting international athletic event are all protected properties.

According to the charter of this biennial sporting event, all of these items may only be used in an official capacity by their owner or a third party that has received proper authorisation.

The International Trademark Association notes that each country participating in this sporting competition must agree to uphold these intellectual property rights and give them priority over existing laws. Since Australian athletes are competing, this means the international protection afforded these symbols trumps existing Australian trade mark legislation.

Any business that uses the sporting event's symbols without receiving permission to do so runs the risk of facing legal action from the competition's law team.

What am I not allowed to use?

With such high stakes, it is important for organisations to know what they can and cannot use in a commercial sense during this season of international camaraderie and friendly rivalry. In all cases, it is better to err on the side of caution and avoid using anything that could be a potential infraction.

This includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Five interlocking circles of varying colours.
  • A hashtag containing a specific city and year.
  • Slogans associated with competition results, which might rhyme with "Toe for the mould".
  • Sharing or retweeting a post that includes any infringing content.
Mentioning the names of locations where events are being held can also violate IP rights.Mentioning the names of locations where events are being held can also violate IP rights.

It's pretty clear that a trade mark is an excellent way to protect your company's intellectual property. To learn more about registering a trade mark in Australia, check out our free trade mark guide .