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Restrictions of Olympic proportions

Gillian Cordall explains the extensive restrictions on advertising and marketing aimed at protecting the Olympic brand and, as in the case of the "flaming torch breakfast baguette", LOCOG's speedy approach to snuffing out infringements.

As the Olympic torch made its way through the country amidst cheering crowds, it has been reported that at least one café owner had a taste of the lengths to which the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) will go to protect the Olympic brand in the run up to the games. All was resolved amicably but, unfortunately for the people of Plymouth, the "flaming torch breakfast baguette" specially created for the occasion did not appear on the menu.

The Olympic rings logo is one of the most recognisable brands in the world. The fact that it is a registered trademark and is subject to strict restrictions on use would surprise very few people. What might come as a surprise are the restrictions on branding and advertising resulting from the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006. Heavily criticised at the time, its effects are now being felt.

Protection of the Olympic brand is nothing new. Many Olympic logos, branding and designs are registered trademarks or are protected by copyright, registered design or other intellectual property rights. The Olympic rings, the Paralympic symbol and the London 2012 name and logo are all registered trademarks. The London 2012 mascots are protected as are the Team GB name and logo and the London 2012 font.

In addition to these more usual forms of protection, the Olympic Symbol (Protection) Act 1995 created an Olympic association right, which prevents the Olympic rings, the words Olympic, Olympian, Olympiad (and plurals) and the Olympic motto being used without authorisation in the course of trade. Identical restrictions now apply to the Paralympic symbol and related words and motto. Any use without authorisation, or any use of anything so similar as to be likely to create in the public mind an association with the Olympic or Paralympic games or movement, is an infringement.

The 2006 Act extended this association right by the creation of the London Olympic Association Right (LOAR). As a result, any representation in the course of trade "that creates a likelihood of association" with the London Olympics is an infringement. The 2006 Act includes certain words and expressions that a court might take into account in deciding whether there has been an association with the London Olympics. These are contained in two lists:

If you use any two words from List A or any word in List A with one or more from List B, you will infringe the association right. But it is not necessary to use any of the words or phrases from List A or B to infringe the London Olympic Association Right. You just have to create a likelihood of association.

And this is where the "flaming torch breakfast baguette" came unstuck. Whilst "flaming" and "torch" are not in List A or B, their use creates a likelihood of association with the London Olympics and therefore, in LOCOG's view, infringes their rights.

As you can see, it is very easy to stray into infringing the London Olympic Association Right as the rights are very wide. In order to assist businesses, LOCOG has published detailed guidelines which explain how LOCOG interprets the association right and give examples of advertising or marketing activity which, in their view, may infringe their rights. It is well worth a read - Click here to download a pdf. Some of the examples may come as a surprise.

Businesses should be aware of advertising and branding exclusion zones around the Olympic venues. Legislation is in force which prevents unauthorised advertising, trading and marketing activities within a few hundred metres of each venue for a specified period when events are being held. This would, for example, prevent the display of advertisements by anyone other than official sponsors or any authorised person.

The display of advertisements on branded clothing as part of a marketing campaign, the use of branded body painting or the display of an advertisement on an animal are also prohibited!

There are certain exceptions. Existing business signs and logos are permitted, as is the wearing of branded clothing other than for the purposes of ambush marketing, but these are very limited. Again, LOCOG has issued detailed guidelines which are worth reading. Click here to download a pdf

Overall, businesses would be wise to familiarise themselves with these rules in the run-up to the games. The restrictions on advertising and marketing are very extensive and, as we have already seen in the case of the flaming torch baguette, LOCOG will be quick to snuff out any infringing activity.

For further information please contact:

This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.

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