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COVID-19 moves Olympics to 2021 but they’re still called Tokyo 2020

Wednesday, April 22, 2020 @ 2:13 PM | By Jayde Wood and Todd Rattray

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Jayde Wood
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Todd Rattray
On March 24, 2020, the International Olympic Committee announced that the Games of the 32nd Olympiad in Tokyo would be postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a first-of-its-kind postponement — the Games were cancelled during world wars in 1916, 1940 and 1944, but have never been postponed.  

The committee said the Summer Olympics in Tokyo “must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020, but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.” However, the Games will keep the name “Tokyo 2020,” which would allow the committee to avoid rebranding and reseeking trademark protection.

In Canada, Olympic marks can be protected under the Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act and/or under s. 9(1)(n)(iii) of the Trademarks Act.

Prohibited Olympic marks

Subsection 3(1) of the Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act prohibits any person, other than the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee, from adopting or using in connection with a business, as a trademark or otherwise, an Olympic or Paralympic mark or a mark that resembles an Olympic or Paralympic mark. A list of prohibited Olympic and Paralympic marks is set out in Schedule 1 of the Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act and some example prohibited marks are:

· .
Subsection 3(4) of the Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act provides various exceptions, including prior use (before March 2, 2007), geographical indication, use by an individual of their name, and use by current or former Olympic and Paralympic athletes in reference to their own participation in Olympic Games. 

Official marks

An “official mark” is an indicia derived from by an entity endowed with public or official responsibility. The Trademarks Act prohibits third party commercial use or registration of official marks adopted and used by the Canadian Olympic Committee or the Canadian Paralympic Committee. In some respects, official marks may confer relatively broad protection (when compared to conventional trademark registrations) in that the official marks confer exclusivity for all goods and services, whereas conventional trademark registrations are associated with specific goods and services.

The Canadian Olympic Committee owns hundreds of official marks. For the 2010 Vancouver Games, the Canadian Olympic Committee obtained 37 official marks including city-specific marks (e.g. Vancouver 2010). For the 2020 Tokyo Games, the Canadian Olympic Committee has already procured two official marks: TOKYO 2020 and this symbol.

Silver lining beyond trademark protection

The International Olympic Committee’s decision to retain the name “Tokyo 2020” may have a silver lining for its trademark portfolio management. This decision may also provide some certainty to already-executed contract agreements relating to the “Tokyo 2020” Games. As suggested by Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, any contract agreements relating to the “Tokyo 2020” Games would likely remain valid even if the Games will be organized in 2021.

Jayde Wood is an associate at Oyen Wiggs Green & Mutala LLP and her practice focuses on the strategic creation and development of IP assets. Born and raised in Beijing, she is fluent in written and spoken Mandarin Chinese and has assisted clients with securing IP protection in China. Reach her at Todd Rattray is a partner with Oyen Wiggs where he provides intellectual property advice to members of the Pacific Northwest’s science and technology community. Reach him at

Photo credit / Bluehousestudio ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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