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London shops warned against infringing Olympic trademark

Friday June 8, 2012 at 4:45pm

Copyrighted symbols

Shops ranging from furniture stores to fast food takeaways have been found adorning their shop-front with the name 'Olympic', or decorating premises with the famous five-ring logo. The offending firms have increasingly cropped up especially in the area surrounding the stadium itself, with the number of infringements reported by police well into the hundreds.

Businesses who have been found utilising Olympic associated trademarks are in breach of International Olympic Committee (IOC) copyright laws which are enforced by the London Organising Committee (LOCOG). The copyrighted symbols - the name 'Olympic', and the multi-coloured five ring logo - are among the most well-known and stringently protected trademarks.

However, shops who have used the word 'Olympic' in the name of their business are exempt from policing by the LOCOG as long as the name was established before 1995, a decade before the 2005 London bid.

Several companies along the Olympic torch relay route have also been warned against bedecking their shop fronts for the occasion, with an intellectual property lawyer assigned with the task of explaining the trademark restrictions in person to any shop-owners found using the symbols as decorations. One estate agents chain based in Cornwall and Devon received an abrupt warning from LOCOG after a mock up of the Olympic rings was displayed in a window in honour of the torch relay running past.

The recent Diamond Jubilee celebrations also provided an increase of businesses in potential breach of trademarks such as the royal crest and portraits of the Queen; however, guidelines were deliberately relaxed for the holiday in order to encourage the country-wide celebrations.

Restrictions on advertising

Sports sponsorship is big business. In addition to symbols used for branding or decoration, strict laws are also enforced to prevent what is known as ambush marketing, where companies purposely associate their products with the Olympics in order to benefit from the hugely publicised event without paying for the advantage. Certain terms such as ‘2012’ are prohibited in advertisements or physical goods if they are used alongside other terms such as ‘London’ or ‘summer’, and the likeness of the Olympic flame may not be used at all without proper authorisation. Global companies such as Coca Cola have paid up to approximately $1 billion for the privilege of brand association over four years, which encompasses the London summer games as well as the Winter Olympics. Strict policing of advertising within 300 metres of the Olympic stadium will be put into full force once the Games have begun from 27 July, with breaches able to incur up to £20,000 in fines.

With such stringent restrictions in place to protect one the most recognisable trademarks in the world, smaller business will have to find other ways of targeting the increased number of tourists, steering clear of any reference to the London 2012 Games.

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