Olympic Trade Mark laws even tougher

Olympic Trade Mark laws even tougher


Author: Leanne Breen

Believe it or not, but the Olympic Games are just six months away

Sponsorship is a huge part of making London 2012 a success, and the logos and several related words are heavily protected beyond the usual Trade Mark laws by statutory measures.

Tough sanctions will be imposed on those who fall foul.

Whilst it is tempting for businesses to want to get involved and show their support, they should be careful not to breach the stringent rules.

So here is an overview of what you should avoid in the run up to the games, which start on 27 July.

What can't I do?

The key Olympic words and symbols are protected by what is known as Association Right. It is an infringement of this right to use, in the course of trade:

  • the Olympic motto Citius, Altius, Fortius
  • the Paralympic motto Spirit in Motion
  • the Olympic five rings symbol
  • the Paralympic logo
  • the words 'Olympiad(s)/Paralympiad(s)', 'Olympian(s)/Paralympian(s)', 'Olympic(s)/Paralympic(s)'

The infringement extends to cover not only any translation of any of the words in any language, but also or any representation or word so similar as to be likely to create an association with them.

Some further words relating specifically to the 2012 Olympic Games are protected by the London Olympics Right.

You would be infringing this right if you used, in the course of trade and in relation to goods or services, anything likely to suggest an association between you or your goods and services and the London Olympics.

Use of any two of the following will fall foul of the rules:

  • Games
  • 2012
  • Two Thousand and Twelve
  • Twenty Twelve

As will use of any one of them alongside any mention of:

  • gold
  • silver
  • bronze
  • London
  • medals
  • sponsor
  • sponsors

For example, a service provider could offer 'the 2012 service' or 'the Gold Medal service', but not 'the 2012 Gold service' or 'the London Games service'.

It should be noted that this is a non-exhaustive list - so you cannot necessarily avoid infringement by sticking fast to these rules, although they are a good place to start.

What if I was already using one of the protected words or logos?

In respect of the main Olympic words and symbols protected by Association Right, you would have to have continuously used the word or symbol since before 20 September 1995.

If you only started to use the mark after this date (or after 30 March 2006 in respect of the Paralympic words and symbols) or if you have at any time stopped using the mark after these dates, your use of the words or symbols would still constitute an infringement of the Association Right.

If the word or words you have been using are protected by the London Olympics Right, you would have to have a registered UK (and not European) Trade Mark covering the words, and you could only use the words for the particular goods and services for which they were registered.

You would also be able to continue using any of the words or phrases if you had been continuously doing so since before 30 March 2006.

What could happen if I am in breach of the rules?

All usual remedies for Trade Mark infringement are open for use in relation to a breach of these rules.

If found to be in breach, you could be liable for damages, an account of any profit you have made by virtue of the infringement, and have your goods seized and destroyed.

What next?

For more detailed advice on whether what you are doing or planning to do around the Olympics could constitute an infringement, please contact the IP team for advice tailored to your circumstances.