jeudi, décembre 16, 2010

United Kingdom: Olympic brand protection at London 2012

Olympic brand protection at London 2012

Contributed by Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP


Introduction

As the 2012 Olympic Games approach, many UK companies may be thinking about marketing and the leverage to be gained from the surrounding publicity and excitement, especially as the government has promoted the Olympics as being good for UK businesses. However, any such thoughts must take account of the legislation in place to protect both the games and their related words or symbols. Such legislation is designed to prevent companies that are not part of the official sponsor programmes from associating themselves with the Olympics.

Companies must now take into account the Olympics, Paralympics and London Olympics Association Rights (Infringement Proceedings) Regulations 2010, which came into force on November 8 2010. The regulations set out various remedies available to the organisers of the London games in the event of proscribed references to the Olympic Games.

Organising committee

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games is responsible for preparing and staging the games in 2012. Its funding comes mainly from the private sector - a total of £2 billion is expected to be raised from sources including sponsorship and the sale of merchandise. The organising committee is tasked with preventing unauthorised association with, or use of, the 2012 brands. Its website describes the 2012 brands as being "vital to the funding of the games" and as the games' "most valuable asset". The organising committee is already busy policing infringements of rights granted to it under the two acts set out below.

Brand protection

Logos, symbols and mottos of the games are protected by a combination of hard-hitting legislation, registered trademarks, copyright, registered Community designs and common law. The key pieces of legislation preventing unauthorised association with the 2012 games are:

  • The Olympic Symbol etc (Protection) Act 1995, which created a general 'Olympic association right', giving protection to the Olympic symbol, the Olympic motto and certain key words such as 'Olympiad' and 'Olympian' and prevents representations of anything similar that is likely to create an association with the Olympic Games or the Olympic movement in the public mind.
  • The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 created the 'London Olympics association right', which prohibits representations from being made in relation to goods or services which are likely to suggest to the public that there is an association between those goods or services and the London Olympic Games or Paralympic Games.

The new regulations are made under these two acts. They give the courts new powers in relation to goods and materials that are found to infringe the London Olympics association right.

New powers

The new powers are wide ranging and reflect the rights available under the Olympic Association Right (Infringement Proceedings) Regulations 1995 relating to infringement of the Olympic association right.

They provide that:

  • where a person has infringed the London Olympic association right, the court may order erasure (or "obliteration") of a representation that infringes the association right (ie, the relevant logo or mark) from infringing goods, material or articles. In the event of non-compliance with the order, or if the court believes that compliance is unlikely, the court may order the goods to be delivered up for destruction; and
  • the organising committee may, up to December 31 2012, apply to the court for an order that infringing goods, material or articles in a person's possession in the course of a business be delivered up to it, or to such person as the court directs. In addition, the organising committee may apply to the court for an order that infringing goods or material which have been delivered up may be destroyed or forfeited. Note that if the court decides that no such order should be made the person who had possession of the articles before they were delivered up is entitled to their return.

The orders may be made by the High Court in England and Wales, the High Court in Northern Ireland and the Court of Session in Scotland.

Comment

The protection given to the 2012 games is wide ranging and the organising committee has clearly set out its view of how broadly it considers its powers to extend. This has led to the games being referred to in some marketing circles as 'the event that dare not speak its name'. Among the many examples in the available guidance, the organising committee suggests that a hotel offering an 'Olympic Games package' would be viewed as offering a Games-themed promotion and would be likely to be in breach of the legislation. Therefore, companies are advised to tread carefully when referring to the games in material or on goods that they produce, as any association with the games could spell trouble.

For further information on this topic please contact Oliver Bray or Lisa-Jayne Pickford at Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP by telephone (+44 20 3060 6000), fax (+44 20 3060 7000) or email (oliver.bray@rpc.co.uk or lisajayne.pickford@rpc.co.uk).