Warning for Advertisers Hoping to Capitalize on the London Olympics

The Olympic rings are one of the most recognizable symbols in the world; therefore, it is understandable that businesses want to incorporate the upcoming London Olympics into their marketing. However, companies must be careful not to make unauthorized use of any intellectual property of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The IOC and the London Organising Committee of the Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) have already indicated that they plan to vigorously defend their intellectual property rights against unauthorized use during the games. In addition, the U.K. has strong laws in place to protect against infringement.

The Olympic Symbol Protection Act 1995 protects the Olympic and Paralympic symbols, mottos, and various words associated with the games. After London was chosen as the location for the 2012 Olympics, the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 was enacted to provide additional legal protection.

Under the laws, it is illegal to use the Olympic symbol, the London 2012 logo, or the words “London 2012” in the course of trade without LOCOG’s written consent. It is also illegal to falsely represent any association, affiliation, endorsement, sponsorship, or similar relationship with the London 2012 Olympics.

Due to the breadth of the IP rights enforced by the IOC and the LOCOG, companies seeking to capitalize on the upcoming game should pursue official sponsorship opportunities. While some so-called “ambush” or “guerrilla” marketing companies promise that their advertising tactics skirt the laws, the only way to be safe is to consult an experienced intellectual property attorney such as myself.

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