An Olympic Squabble

Oct 27, 2016  By Rolf Fricke
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To celebrate the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Ernst Leitz Wetzlar GmbH (today Leica Camera AG) issued 1000 Leicaflex SL cameras engraved with the classic logo of the five Olympic rings (figure 1: Leicaflex SL camera  engraved with the Olympic rings). Special serial numbers ranging from 001 to 1000 were engraved on the prism housing of those cameras. Batches of these cameras were allotted to Leitz subsidiaries around the world and 200 of them were reserved for the American market. When they arrived at the Port of New York, however, they were promptly impounded by U.S. Customs, because the Olympic logo is a trademark and the property of each country’s Olympic Committee, and E. Leitz Inc., New York had not acquired the license to use that logo on its products. Kodak, on the other hand, had already purchased those exclusive rights for the U.S. market (figure 2: Kodak Instamatic X30 camera with Olympic sticker), and this  compelled the personable Leitz New York sales manager Gene Anderegg to phone me to ask whether I could arrange a special dispensation of those rights, especially in consideration of the fact that the list price of the Kodak Instamatic X30 camera (produced from 1971 to 1974) was only $38.00, compared to $645.00 for the Leicaflex SL camera (produced from 1968 to 1974), so that it absolutely did not constitute a competition for the Kodak camera.

At the time, I was working in the International Advertising Division of Kodak, which was located only a few floors away from the Consumer Marketing Department, so I walked over to that area and asked a young member of that group if the aforementioned dispensation could be granted. To my surprise, he was adamant and commented that Leitz should have known the rules. That seemed rather arrogant to me, so I climbed the stairs a few floors higher to the office of a senior marketing executive whom I had met before and I asked him about the same dispensation. To my great relief, he promptly agreed, whereupon I asked him to put it in writing, so that I could submit a formal permission to the Leitz New York sales manager.

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