The British Olympic Association was not satisfied with Benetton’s withdrawal of children’s togs with unauthorised Olympic branding. Osborne Clarke’s Nick Johnson reports on the continuing case and the underlying law.
Topic: Ambush marketing
Who: Benetton, British Olympic Association
Where: The High Court, London
When: May 2004
The British Olympic Association (BOA) has issued legal proceedings against two Benetton subsidiaries in relation to a range of Benetton children’s clothing featuring the Olympic rings. The clothing also featured the word “OLYMPIC”, with one item also featuring the word “official”.
The Olympic Symbols etc (Protection) Act 1995 gives the BOA exclusive rights to control exploitation of:
· the Olympic symbol (i.e. the IOC’s five interlocking rings);
· the Olympic motto (“Citius, Altius, Fortius”); and
· the words OLYMPIAD, OLYMPIADS, OLYMPIAN, OLYMPIANS, OLYMPIC and OLYMPICS.
Subject to some limited exceptions, the Act makes it a criminal offence to use any of these restricted representations in goods or advertising without the BOA’s permission. It also gives the BOA a civil cause of action.
The BOA apparently challenged Benetton about its clothing range in March and the items were removed from UK stores. However the BOA has not let the matter go at that. They are looking for damages and, having apparently not been able to settle the matter, have now instigated legal action.
Why this matters:
Clearly the BOA not only has the legal right to prevent unauthorised use of the protected Olympic words and symbols; it also has the budget and the will to enforce those rights. Think twice before making Olympic references in advertising and on products!