With only a few days to go before the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, Olympic fever is reaching boiling point as we await with eager anticipation the Games coming to Britain for the first time since 1948. However, amid all the excitement, it is important for businesses to be aware of legislation that exists to protect the hugely valuable Olympic brand and most promotional activities associated with the Games have been reserved for 'Official Sponsors' that have contributed to the funding of the event.
Three hundred officials have been employed throughout the UK to monitor and enforce the legislation and to clamp down on businesses that are seen to be seeking to benefit from an association with the Olympic brand - all the more reason not to get off to a false start in the belief you are supporting the Games.
It can be very easy for a business or, indeed, an individual to fall foul of the legislation and find themselves on the receiving end of a complaint, even if they do not intend to do so.
The main UK-specific pieces of Olympic legislation are the Olympic Symbols etc (Protection) Act 1995 and the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006. Additional protection is also available by relying on existing trade mark, copyright and design right law.
The legislation and intellectual property protection provide wide-ranging safeguards for the Olympic brand. These include:
The most obvious and high profile types of infringement are likely to be "ambush marketing" where non-sponsors seek to associate themselves with the London Olympic Games.
However, the legislation does not only catch such extreme examples but is also framed in such a way that anyone seeking to benefit from any association with the Olympics could be infringing. This could include using any advertising or promotional material (such as newsletters or mailshots) which contain any Olympic or sports-related words, pictures or themes. It could also include hosting and advertising an Olympic-themed client event, particularly if any of the Olympic symbols, words or expressions referred to above are used.
The following are some examples of activity which the The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) has already deemed to be infringing:
LOCOG has the power to seize and destroy infringing goods. It can also issue fines and seek damages or an account of the profits as a result of any sales of infringing products.
LOCOG usually adopts a policy of "education rather than legislation" and minor offenders can usually expect a visit or a letter from one of the enforcement officers to explain the infringement and request that the activity is stopped. The more serious offences, such as ambush marketing, can be expected to be punished by fines and even imprisonment.
Click here to see our top tips for complying with the Olympic and Paralympic legislation.
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