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Olympics advice for Surrey businesses – Hart Brown solicitors' legal comment

PUBLISHED: 18:07 09 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:36 20 February 2013

Olympics advice for Surrey businesses – Hart Brown solicitors' legal comment

Olympics advice for Surrey businesses – Hart Brown solicitors' legal comment

With the Olympics just round the corner, businesses around Surrey are considering the many opportunities provided by the world's largest sporting event – but are they considering the legal implications?

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine May 2012


With the Olympics just round the corner, businesses around Surrey are considering the many opportunities provided by the worlds largest sporting event but are they considering the legal implications? Here, JAMES LAMONT, a partner at Hart Brown solicitors, which has six offices across the county, provides some useful tips for our local companies...

Allowing employees time off work to watch the Olympics ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has issued guidance advising employers to apply a first come, first served policy for employees wishing to take leave during the Olympics. In order for an employer to exercise this policy, there should be a legitimate business reason for doing so.

The contract of employment should also refer to the possibility that there may be restrictions to annual leave.

Disruption to travel
For those businesses located in and around the Olympic sites, there is concern about the level of disruption that may be caused if staff experience difficulties arriving at work on time.

Flexible working is one solution, which may involve staggering the start and end of the working day. Working from home is also being adopted by a number of companies throughout the duration of the Games. If working from home is a possibility, ACAS has advised employers to ensure that they are making preparations in advance and that they have the IT infrastructure to support it.

Using the Olympics for marketing purposes Businesses across Surrey will naturally wish to maximise the opportunities created by hosting the worlds largest sporting event but those wishing to try to profit from the Olympics by unauthorised use of its intellectual property rights beware!

To raise the huge amounts of money necessary to stage the Olympics, it is essential that the advertising and sponsorship rights associated with the Games and purchased by businesses are protected. This protection is provided by the London 2012 Organising Committee of the Games (LOCOG).

LOCOG has been given a wide range of enforcement powers and any intellectual property infringements may lead to a criminal conviction, civil claims with injunctions, and confiscation of infringing goods.

Which intellectual property of the Olympics is being protected?
There is legislation from 1995 that provides robust protection for the unauthorised use of the word Olympic.

A further Act in 2006 created a list of expressions that are not permitted to be used without authorisation.

The expressions are contained in two groups; the first group contains words such as games, two thousand and twelve and twenty twelve. Use of these words when combined with words in the second group may result in an infringement of Olympic intellectual property. The second group contains many words in common use such as gold, silver, bronze, London, sponsor and summer.

Nearly all Olympic logos and phrases are registered as trademarks, and most of the designs relating to the Games will be protected by registered design right.

What happens if I infringe by mistake?
There are defences available in relation to the use of Olympic intellectual property, but they are limited and reflect the intended strict approach:

  1. You may use in a context that is not likely to suggest an association between a person, product or service and the Games. For example an advertisement for an original Olympian marble statue in the classified section of a local paper.

  2. An honest statement will generally benefit from a defence provided it is true and accurate, cannot be considered to be misleading or cause confusion and is relevant in the context it is used. For example, an advertisement for a hotel with an Olympic-sized swimming pool is likely to be permitted.

  3. Newspapers, magazines, radio and television programmes can all publish or broadcast a report or information about the Games without infringing any Olympic rights. However, it is important to note that this exception does not apply to businesses that produce newsletters, client bulletins and other marketing material.

  4. Use of names, design rights and other rights that have been made continuously before 1995 for example, a business trading under the name Olympic Plumbing would not be infringing any intellectual property rights if it had traded under that name prior to 1995.

  5. Olympians are not prevented from endorsing products and the appearance of an Olympian in an advert is not considered to automatically create an association with the Games for infringement purposes. However, where an Olympian is used in an advert that also uses controlled expressions or Games-related imagery, an infringement is likely to be committed.

LOCOG will not hesitate to take action against infringers, so if you are in any doubt as to your Olympic intellectual property rights, give Hart Brown a call (see below).

What to do next...
If you are concerned about any of the issues raised in this article, contact Hart Brown by sending an e-mail to or by calling 01483 887766.

  • James Lamont lives in Cranleigh and is a partner at Hart Brown specialising in Commercial Law. He is based at their Guildford branch and can travel across the county to meet with clients.

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