Photo credit (Wikipedia.com)

WHEN a single word is so synonymous with your brand that you have to trademark it you know you’re doing something right. Specsavers already owns a trademark for ‘Should’ve Gone To Specsavers’, which was approved in 2007. But now, the chain of opticians has applied for the rights to the terms ‘should’ve’ and the hashtag-friendly ‘shouldve’ in a wide range of commercial spheres. The move has confused lawyers who aren’t sure the rules can allow a company to tie up such a common expression.

But it seems you can if you’re the International Olympic Committee. With the Rio Olympics just days away, advertisers that are not official games sponsors have to abide by strict rules. They cannot use phrases such as ‘Olympics’, ‘gold’ and ‘Rio’. Understandable, perhaps, but this also applies to more everyday terms such as ‘challenge’, ‘effort’, ‘summer’ and even ‘2016’, which cannot be used ‘in such a way as to imply an association between, on the one hand, the participant and, on the other hand, the Olympic games’.

Rule 40, which is designed to protect the rights of Olympic sponsors, is in place until 24 August and prevents companies from taking to social media to congratulate their athletes. This is why, on 26 July – the day before the Rule 40 period began – so many athletes took to Twitter to thank their sponsors. Ironically the IOC could be taking away some of the buzz from the games at a peak time for its own brand promotion. At a time when social media could be alive with interaction about the emotions of the games, companies have had this right taken from them. When it comes to Specsavers you can see why a brand needs to protect its hard-earned identity. But in the case of the Olympics, the IOC should’ve thought more carefully, perhaps.