Olympic & Paralympic Games: Paris IP Court is Ready to Play

Parisians are in for an extraordinary summer as the 2024 Paris Olympic & Paralympic Games take over the city. To make this event a success, many of the city's key institutions will remain mobilized throughout the summer – and expect a surge in activity. In particular, the Third Chamber of the Paris Judicial Court, which specializes in intellectual property disputes, will remain on duty throughout the Games. The judges of this chamber anticipate an exceptional volume of urgent intellectual property-related claims.

The unique ad hoc organizational scheme of the Third Chamber of the Paris Judicial Court aims to address four major risks to intellectual property rights which are projected to arise from the Olympic & Paralympic Games. 

1. Infringement of the Olympic & Paralympic properties

The Olympic & Paralympic properties include the respective emblem, flag, motto, symbol, logo, anthem and mascot, as well as a list of defined terms such as "olympique" and "Paris 2024". They enjoy an autonomous protection regime in French law that goes beyond the standard of protection offered by common trademark law – regardless of registration of those signs as trademarks.

In this regard, the provisions in the French Sports Code were complemented by ad hoc legislation in 2018 and 2022 in anticipation of the 2024 Olympic & Paralympic Games, as required by the International Olympic Committee (IOC)'s Olympic Charter.

Under these provisions, the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF) and the French Paralympic and Sports Committee (CPSF) own the national Olympic & Paralympic emblems, respectively; on the French territory, they also hold the IOC's and IPC's properties as custodians.

The French Sports Code forbids the unauthorized registration as a trademark, reproduction, imitation, affixing, removal or modification of these properties. Noticeably, in stark contrast to common trademark law, no other condition (in particular, likelihood of confusion) is required for infringement. The criminal penalties that are incurred are the same as those provided for in cases of infringement of any trademark. Civil sanctions may also apply in cases pursued before the civil courts, such as the Third Chamber of the Paris Judicial Court.

According to these special provisions, until December 31, 2024, the Paris 2024 Olympic & Paralympic Games Organizational Committee (COJOP) has standing to sue for infringement of the Olympic & Paralympic properties, and may seek a range of measures such as injunctions, product recall and destruction, damage and cost compensation, as well as judicial publication. CNOSF and CPSF, respectively, may join the proceedings initiated by COJOP to seek compensation for their own damage.

The ad hoc organizational scheme set by the Third Chamber of the Paris Judicial Court allows COJOP to seek interim injunctions throughout this summer. In most cases, COJOP should initiate inter partes summary proceedings or expedite proceedings on the merits. However, it could seek ex parte motions in urgent, clear-cut cases of infringement where special circumstances justify an exception to the adversarial principle.

2. Infringement of intellectual property rights

COJOP as well as all other stakeholders, such as sponsors and sports equipment manufacturers, could also seize the Third Chamber of the Paris Judicial Court in cases of intellectual property infringement in the context of the Olympic & Paralympic Games. 

The range of procedures and measures provided for in the French Intellectual Property Code are available in such cases of infringement.

In this framework, one may expect the Third Chamber of the Paris Judicial Court to be seized with multiple emergency proceedings. In view of such actions, plaintiffs may file ex parte motions seeking authorization to perform infringement seizures for the purpose of collecting evidence of a purported infringement.

3. Ambush marketing

Ambush marketing is defined in the French case law as "The act of a company making itself visible to the public at a sporting or cultural event in order to associate its image with it, without paying the organizers and without becoming an official sponsor"1

Such practices can be prosecuted as unfair competition or parasitism under Article 1240 of the French Civil Code or as misleading commercial practices under the French Consumer Code.

The Third Chamber of the Paris Judicial Court has ruled that, irrespective of acts constituting an infringement of the Olympic properties under the French Sports Code, the unauthorized reference to the universe of the Olympic Games may qualify as parasitism2. This ruling was notably based on the consideration that CNOSF grants costly licenses authorizing business partners to reference the Games in commercial communications.

Commercial disputes, such as actions for unfair competition or parasitism, in which no intellectual property right is invoked fall within the jurisdiction of the commercial courts.

Unlike the Third Chamber of the Paris Judicial Court, the Paris Commercial Court has not set up an ad hoc organizational scheme during the forthcoming Olympic & Paralympic Games. Nevertheless, subject to certain conditions, urgent cases of ambush marketing could be heard by the Presiding Judge of the Paris Commercial Court this summer, in expedite summary proceedings ("référé d’heure à heure") or based on ex parte motions.

4. Unlawful broadcasting of the Olympic & Paralympic games

The risk of unauthorized broadcasting of competitions, or of the opening and closing ceremonies, will materialize during the forthcoming Olympic & Paralympic Games. Emergency measures may be requested by media rights holders to put an end to such practices:  

  • The unlawful broadcasting of sporting events is punishable under the French Sports Code. In this regard, the Presiding Judge of the Judicial Court can order measures to prevent access from the French territory to any online public communication service that broadcasts a competition without authorization from the media rights holder. Such measures may include the blocking, withdrawal or delisting of such services.
  • Where a copyright or related right is infringed through an online public communication service, the Presiding Judge of the Judicial Court can, in an expedited decision on the merits, order all appropriate measures to prevent or stop such infringement.

It can be expected that stakeholders in the media & telecommunications industries who are licensed to broadcast the Paris 2024 Olympic & Paralympic Games will seek such emergency measures on a regular basis throughout the duration of these events. Such procedures are likely to form a major part of the tasks entrusted to the Third Chamber of the Paris Judicial Court, during a summer that promises to be exceptionally busy for legal practitioners in Paris.


1 CA Paris, Feb. 10, 2012, no. 10/23711
2 TJ Paris, May 29, 2020, no. 18/14115



Axel Munier
Attorney-at-Law (Avocat), Partner BARDEHLE PAGENBERG SAS SPE

Axel Munier