VANCOUVER -- On New Year's Day, Canadians will be free again to use words like Vancouver, Canada, Games and Gold without breaking federal law.
Key sections of the controversial Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act expire New Year's Eve. The 2007-passed law aimed to protect organizers of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics and their sponsors from counterfeiters and ambush marketers.
The law included a list of 17 expressions and 19 marks -- including the Vancouver Games' Inukshuk logo -- that were banned from use without permission from VANOC. There were loopholes that exempted media outlets and artists who were not mass-producing their work.
Games-specific copyright protection laws in host nations are required by the International Olympic Committee.
The law drew the ire of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, which argued that enforcement could harm freedom of speech and the livelihoods of small restaurateurs and retailers. A year before the law was enacted, VANOC tried forcing Olympia Pizza in Vancouver's West End to remove its Olympic rings and torch sign. Olympia had used the logo for a couple of decades without complaint from the Canadian Olympic Committee. Olympia eventually got to keep its sign, but did not expand.
Bill Cooper, who was VANOC's commercial rights manager, said cases like the Olympia Pizza matter were beneficial in the long-run.
While it was painful for me to sometimes wake up in the morning and read the paper, in the end it really helped us, Cooper said. It provided that deterrent.
Cooper estimated his department handled 3,200 cases, most of which were resolved without publicity. He estimated there were 50 to 60 merchandise seizures involving 20,000 to 30,000 units that were knockoffs or contained illegally used trademarks. There were also high-profile cases of ambush marketing by non-sponsors, from yoga wear company Lululemon Athletica to Scotiabank.
"In some cases that were so high profile, we believed after consideration we had no choice but to be public," Cooper said.
Cooper is now a senior partner in the Twentyten Group, a Vancouver firm established by former VANOC marketing vice-president Andrea Shaw. One of the clients is the COC, which may lobby the federal government to craft a similar law for the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games.
"We're just starting to explore with them and Toronto 2015 whether or not what's remaining of the act is sufficient or whether we can look at reigniting it for 2015," Cooper said.