Law360 is providing free access to its coronavirus coverage to make sure all members of the legal community have accurate information in this time of uncertainty and change. Use the form below to sign up for any of our weekly newsletters. Signing up for any of our section newsletters will opt you in to the weekly Coronavirus briefing.
Law360 (March 30, 2020, 4:20 PM EDT) -- Sneaker company Puma applied last week to register "Puma Tokyo 2021" as a trademark, filing its paperwork on the same day that the Tokyo Games were postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a March 24 filing at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the German sneaker giant applied to register the phrase in standard characters as a trademark for apparel, footwear, accessories and sporting goods.
The application came the same day that the International Olympic Committee announced that the Tokyo Games, set to kick off in July, would be postponed over the outbreak of COVID-19, which has sickened hundreds of thousands around the globe.
It was not immediately clear whether the application was authorized by the IOC or the U.S. Olympic Committee, which closely guard the trademark rights associated with their marquee sporting event.
Representatives for the USOC and for Puma did not immediately return requests for comment on Monday.
The USOC owns three trademark registrations for "Tokyo 2020" but has not applied for any trademarks for "Tokyo 2021." That's likely because the organizers have specifically said that they plan to keep using the "2020" name even after the postponement.
The USOC has also secured several trademark registrations — including "Tokyo Strong" and "Road to Tokyo" — that do not reference the specific year, as well as registrations for the event's logo without words.
If it was not authorized, Puma's application is almost certain to spark a fight with the USOC — either in the form of an opposition proceeding at the trademark office, or perhaps even a federal infringement lawsuit.
Like the NFL and the Super Bowl, the USOC moves aggressively to prevent unauthorized commercial uses of Olympics trademarks. The group owns hundreds of trademark registrations at USPTO and is empowered by a special statute that grants stronger protections than the Lanham Act.
Puma is represented by Anne E. Naffziger of Leydig Voit & Mayer Ltd.
--Editing by Adam LoBelia.
For a reprint of this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.