The Olympic Commission has a contractual obligation to those who are official sponsors and licensees to effectively police the infringement of the Olympic Trade Marks (as well as the other Intellectual Property associated with the Games). The Olympic Commission’s approach is also guided by the fact that this is a once in a life time event and for that reason their priority is to prevent infringements of the legal rights. Should those rights be infringed, they have obligations to ensure that these are dealt with swiftly and appropriately.

The Olympic Commission aims to prevent “ambush marketing” of the Games. Ambush marketing is when a business’ attempts to attach itself to a major event without paying any kind of sponsorship contribution. This means they get the benefit from it, but pay nothing to fund the cost of the Games themselves. An example of ambush marketing was during the 1996 Games (Reebok had paid $40 million to be the official sponsor), when Linford Christie sported “Puma” contact lenses during a press conference.

It is the Olympic Commission’s view point that such “ambush marketing” damages the investment of their sponsors and in turn risks their ability to fund the Games and therefore any infringement is taken seriously, with swift action to remedy and bring the infringement to an end. Where the Olympic Commission deems it necessary to take legal steps to resolve the issue, this may include seeking an injunction to bring the infringement of their rights to an end and/or claiming compensation to rectify the damage.

Criminal Sanctions

In addition to civil action it is also a criminal offence to produce or sell counterfeit merchandise.


The Olympic Commission is being aided by the Metropolitan Police, Serious Organised Crime Agency, the UK Border Agency, HM Customs & Excise, Trading Standards, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and of course those companies who have licences to produce Official merchandise, in order to flag up any potential counterfeiting issues. If counterfeiting is found prosecutions will be brought against those infringers.

Click on the links below to read the earlier blogs in our series on the Olympic Trade Marks:   Trade mark issues affecting the London 2012 Olympic Games What legal protection do those Olympic Trade Marks have? Who can use the Olympic Trade Marks?