Olympics Postponed, But Will Retain 'Tokyo 2020' Name

By Bill Donahue
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Law360 (March 24, 2020, 5:46 PM EDT) -- The International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday that the upcoming Tokyo Games would be postponed until 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic but will retain the name "Tokyo 2020," meaning the event's organizers won't have to start from scratch when it comes to trademark protection.

Facing mounting pressure amid an outbreak that has sickened hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, the IOC said the games would be pushed to 2021 "to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community." The event will take place by next summer at the latest, and it will "keep the name Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020," the group said.

The postponement will have a sweeping impact on athletes and businesses around the globe, but keeping the same name creates a small silver lining: It won't affect a series of trademark registrations secured for the Tokyo Games over the previous decade at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Between 2012 and 2017, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee registered three different "Tokyo 2020" registrations, covering two logos featuring the famous Olympic rings, plus another with the name and year in plain text. The registrations cover a vast array of goods and services.

The USOC also secured a number of 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 with no words.

The Tokyo Games had been scheduled to begin in late July, but seemed increasingly unlikely to stay on schedule as the coronavirus continued to spread in recent weeks. On Tuesday, the IOC and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan announced they would be postponed until 2021.

Like the NFL and the NCAA, the USOC closely guards the trademarks associated with its marquee sporting event. But unlike other groups, the USOC has a secret weapon that enables it to be even more aggressive: a special statute that grants far broader rights in policing the use of "Olympics" and other trademarks than the Lanham Act alone.

USOC owns hundreds of trademark registrations, including for many city-specific marks related to previous games. The group often registers such names years in advance; it already has secured such registration for "Los Angeles 2028."

--Editing by Alanna Weissman.

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