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Warning over Olympics marketing

Napthens - July 10th 2012

With the Olympics bearing down on us rapidly, many businesses are looking to tap into the enthusiasm that a summer of sport brings. According to VISA Europe, it is estimated that consumer spending for the Games will hit £750,000,000. But any business thinking of cashing in on this much needed consumer spending boost should be careful - there are strict guidelines governing how Olympic imagery and associated words can be used, and businesses looking to make any association with the games are in danger of trademark infringement.

A recent example of this was a small florist business which was advised by Trading Standards officers to remove a colourful window display in which the Olympic rings were replicated in flowers, or risk being sued by The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). Such a stance may seem heavy handed, but in the context of multi-million-pound exclusive sponsorship deals, LOCOG have to strongly protect their brand, and businesses should take care not to attract their attention.

LOCOG protect their brand in the same way as any business should, by registering trade marks and by relying on the laws of copyright, design right, and passing off. In addition, Parliament has also granted special legal rights under the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 and the Olympic Symbol etc (Protection) Act 1995. These prevent certain activities ‘in the course of trade’ and LOCOG can take legal action against businesses which falsely suggest an association between their goods or services and London 2012 in their advertising or on their goods.

Any use of word or images associated with the Olympic Games runs a high risk of trademark infringement, but the rules go further than that. Even a suggested association with the games is protected by the London Olympics Association Right (LOAR), which means that anything giving the impression that there is a link between a business and the games is not allowed.

The Olympic rings are obviously not permitted to be used, neither are any of the following words: London 2012 – 2012 – LOCOG – Javelin - Team GB – Get Set – Games Maker, and if used in a certain context or combination, any of the following will also run the risk of infringing the LOAR, London – medals – sponsors – summer – gold – silver - bronze.