Based and organized in Switzerland, the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) is responsible for and setting the International Competition Rules (ICR) and for the Olympic skiing disciplines including alpine ski, cross-country, ski jumping, Nordic combined, freestyle & freeski, snowboard.
A recent joint venture between Red Bull GmbH and the founding shareholders of Van Deer-Red Bull Sports Equipment GmbH, further acquired Augment Ski GmbH (Austria). They announced that its ski athletes will compete at the Audi FIS World Cup giant slalom 2022-2023 in Austria with skis bearing the logo below, namely VAN DEER, a stylized deer, the stylized Red Bull logo (of the beverage producer Red Bull):
This announcement raised concerns for FIS. If a company does not manufacture any equipment but only uses it for advertising purposes, it is not allowed to appear as a sponsor (FIS regulations commercial markings on equipment, Art. 1.3)2. FIS ultimately never approved the logo as it was considered advertising for Red Bull. It also threatened to withdraw athletes’ licenses if the debatable logo appears on skis at the FIS ski races.
The FIS notified Red Bull and the National Ski Associations of these athletes that the Van Deer-Red Bull logo as Manufacturers Identification is not tolerated and that its use is a wilful breach of the FIS regulations, which could lead to various sanctions: reprimand, accreditation withdrawal or denial, monetary fine, time penalty (Art.223.1.1-International ski Competition Rules (ICR)), withdrawal of the FIS license. Art.207.2.1 to 207.2.5 ICR indicate: “1. The rules governing commercial markings and advertising on equipment and clothing2 as well as the relevant by-laws published in the Specifications for Commercial Markings on Equipment2, must be followed. 2. Any competitor who breaches the advertising rules is subject to sanction of Art. 223.1.1. An offense for which a sanction may apply and a penalty be imposed is defined as conduct that is in violation or -non-observance of competition rules. 3. If a National Ski Association fails to enforce these rules with its own competitor(s) or for any reason prefers to refer the case to FIS, FIS may take immediate steps to suspend a competitor’s license. 4. If an advertiser uses the name, title, or individual picture of a competitor re: any advertisement, recommendation, or sale of goods without the approval or knowledge of the competitor, the competitor may give power to his National Ski Association or to FIS to enable them to take legal action against the company. If the competitor fails to do so, FIS shall judge the situation as if the competitor had given permission to the company. 5. FIS Council shall be informed of infractions or breaches of these rules that have taken place with regard to the qualification of competitors, sponsorship and advertising and support for the competitors, and shall review what measures to take to deal with these cases.
The FIS required compliance with the rules and respect for all other athletes, teams and manufacturers. FIS official statement (extract): “For future reference, there can be no special treatment for any ski manufacturer, and no privileges granted when it comes to the Manufacturer’s Identification. FIS will not permit a competitor wearing skis with the Van Deer-Red Bull logo to start in any FIS World Cup race or other FIS international competition, as explicitly stated in art. 627 ICR” is publicly accessible. During the FIS races, incl. World Cup events and Championship races, the Logo at stake went covered on the skis. The brand visibility may have been significantly impacted.
Van Deer-Red Bull Sports very recently announced that it will start the 2023/24 Winter season with a new name: Van Deer Racing. The red bull logo evaporated, replaced by the word “Racing”, in red and stylized, inside the VAN DEER logo. The mark (black & white) has been registered in Austria since May. None of the goods/services designates skis, but ancillary.
The current website|4| displays both the previous and new logos: the new logo for race skis; the previous logo for other skis. The webpages are amended frequently e.g., from “The PRO RS is as close as you’ll get to Marcel Hirscher-approved World Cup performance without having to strap FIS compliant skis on your feet” (on 08/09) to “As PRO RS are not restricted by FIS rules, we’ve given them a wider geometry…” (on 08/10), etc.
With compliance, passion for ski races, and more generally sports, shall be a winner for all.
 The marks cited in this informational article are those of their respective owners.
Written by Catherine Hillaert-Prevost
The Trademark Lawyer- Editorial Board Member
Intellectual Property Expert Consultant & Advisor
Former Global Head of Intellectual Property & Anti-counterfeiting at Stoli Group
25+ years’ experience leading multinational companies’ IP strategies in 160+ jurisdictions
Contact the author: Catherine.firstname.lastname@example.org
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