IPO Annual Meeting – Brands Under Attack

Last week, RWS inovia attended the IPO Annual Meeting in New York, NY. We exhibited and were fortunate enough to attend a number of IP sessions throughout the two days. One discussion, led by Jeffrey Greenbaum, looked at ambush marketing as a tool some companies use when rights to an event aren’t established and trademark infringement is in question. Brands Under Attack looked at ambush marketing under two categories:

  1. By Association – Using the event or property’s name or trademark directly. Example: using various components of the Olympics without showing the rings itself.
  1. By Intrusion – Obtaining exposure for the unaffiliated brand at the event. Example: A brand showing up directly outside of the Olympics with marketing materials. 

So, why should we care? Mainly, official sponsors need to protect their investments and rights holders are looking to protect their currency. With official sponsorships costing millions of dollars in some instances and unaffiliated marketers looking to stay relevant, it’s important that various laws are implemented to prevent unethical and illegal behavior.

How do you protect your sponsorship rights? One of the most successful ways a brand can protect their rights is with aggressive enforcement. The NFL & NCAA has found this very successful over the past few years with individuals and companies looking to infringe on their trademarks more frequently. Other solutions include sponsorship agreements with post term restrictions and publishing brand guidelines.

With all of these restrictions, how can unaffiliated marketers stay relevant? Sometimes, marketers are truly unaware that they are infringing on trademarks and sponsorship agreements. Ways to stay out of the legal system include limiting the use of event marks, obtaining rights from another official rights holder and limiting use of multiple elements related to an event in any single execution. Lastly, consider disclaimers of non association with an official event or company.

To wrap up his discussion, Greenbaum looked at why some brands get away with infringement while others are harshly penalized. He’s found that if a Tweet or Post is sent out unintentionally to infringe or is part of the overall conversation, you are more likely to get away with it.


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