LAW NO. 31 OF MAY 8, 2020 PUBLISHED IN THE OFFICIAL GAZETTE
May 12, 2020: Law Decree no. 16 of March 11, 2020 on “Urgent provisions for the organization and conduct of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Milan Cortina 2026 and of the ATP finals in Turin 2021-2025, as well as on the prohibition of parasitic advertising” has been converted into Law no. 31 of May 8, 2020
The so-called ambush marketing, i.e. the unauthorized sponsorship in the context of major sporting events or trade fairs, is now fully safeguarded by Law no. 31 of 8 May 2020, published in the Official Gazette on 12 May, which converts the Law Decree of 11 March 2020 on “Urgent provisions for the organization and conduct of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Milan Cortina 2026 and of the ATP finals in Turin 2021-2025, as well as on the prohibition of parasitic advertising”.
The main aim of the regulation is to hit companies which, in the absence of a regular sponsorship contract or official licence, associate their brand or products/services with an important national or international sports or trade fair event, in order to take advantage of the visibility and commercial opportunities related to such events.
In particular, the law prohibits “parasitic, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive advertising and marketing activities carried out in relation to the organization of sports events or exhibitions of national or international importance which are not authorized by the organizers and are aimed at obtaining an economic or competitive advantage”.
Sanctions are therefore provided for (i) any connection between non-official brand and brand of the sports or trade fair event; (ii) false declarations on who is the official sponsor; (iii) any form of promotion of brands which are not authorized by the organization and lead the public to erroneously believe that the same are official sponsors; (iv) the sale and promotion of products and services marked, in whole or in part, with the logo of the sporting or trade fair event or with other signs that give rise to the erroneous belief that there is a connection with the event or with the organizing institution.
These prohibitions run from the date of registration of the official trademarks of the events up to one hundred and eighty days after their conclusion.
“Conducts carried out in execution of sponsorship contracts signed with individual athletes, teams, artists or participants authorized to one of the events” are excluded and therefore allowed.
The Italian competition and antitrust authority (AGCM) is in charge of verifying the compliance with the regulations and applying any required sanctions (fines from 100 thousand to 2.5 million euros).
For any aspect not dealt with by the new Law, the rules on trademarks (in particular on well-known marks covered by the current Industrial Property Code), copyright and unfair competition apply.
Law no. 31 of 8 May 2020 also regulates the so-called “Olympic properties” (the Olympic symbol, flag, motto, emblems, anthem, expressions identifying the Games, designations and flames, as defined by articles 8 to 14 of the Olympic Charter), establishing that their use “is reserved exclusively to the International Olympic Committee, the Italian National Olympic Committee, the Organizing Committee, the Company referred to in article 3 as well as the parties expressly authorized in writing by the International Olympic Committee“.
Up to 31 December 2026, the Olympic symbol, like any other sign or expression that recalls or evokes the Olympic Games, may not be registered as a trademark, in any class of products or services, unless expressly authorized in writing by the International Olympic Committee. The prohibition also applies to the words “Olympic” and “olympiad”, and to the wording “Milano Cortina”, their translations and variants. The same rules apply to the Paralympic properties and symbol.
Registrations made in violation of these rules will therefore be, by all means, null and void.