The London Olympics Committee ("LOCOG") is the body charged with delivering the London Olympics. Part of its remit includes protecting the commercial interests of the official sponsors and, in its attempts to crack down on "ambush marketing" and other unauthorised commercial activity, LOCOG can call on two very powerful sets of legal rights: the "Olympic Association Right" was enacted to cover all Olympic Games, whereas the "London Olympics Association Right" specifically relate to the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Over the last few years, LOCOG has been vociferous in asserting these two rights and in drawing lines in the sand and warning businesses not to cross them. It has published press releases and other information setting out what can only be said by official sponsors of the Games, and what other businesses (non-sponsors) cannot say. Given the global importance of the London Games, as well as their one-off nature, you might say that LOCOG has had no choice but to go in hard - after all, it has to get it right, and it has to get it right first time.
However, in its eagerness to stamp out unauthorised commercial activity, it does occasionally appear to have overstepped the mark. In one widely reported example, LOCOG required "Olympic Removals" to change its name, despite this small removal business seeming to have a good argument that it had continuously and legitimately used its name and logo since before the relevant statues were passed (22 years in this case).
You can probably understand if LOCOG is not keen to encourage anyone to sail too close to the wind, but this has resulted in a level of uncertainty about exactly what is and is not allowed and this in turn leads to a risk of legitimate commercial activity being stifled. There have been reports in the press, for example, of museums dropping plans to host exhibitions of memorabilia from past Olympiads, for fear of the potential legal fallout.
The law is admittedly complicated and any particular situation will depend heavily on its specific facts but it is clear that the law does provide for this kind of thing to be allowed in certain circumstances provided it is done in an honest manner.
Thrings has already advised several clients on their marketing plans for this summer - we'd be happy to discuss yours with you. For advice or more information, contact Graeme Fearon.