A somewhat stringent set of rules regarding advertising, due to be put in place for the 2012 Olympic Games, are expected to have an affect on not only the athletes Taking part but also on ticket holders and many UK businesses too.

The aim of these rules is to protect the Games’ sponsors who have, essentially, paid for the event, but many are worried that the severity of the restrictions could have a negative impact on London’s economy.

Despite the UK already having a set of legal protections in place for copyright holders and brands the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have demanded their own set of rules which has led to participating governments having to introduce tailor made legislation as an added blanket of legal protection.

Specific legislation in place

The Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act was passed in 2006 and this Act, alongside the Olympic Symbol Act 1995, gives the Games and sponsors a level of protection which goes above and beyond all the contract and copyright laws already in existence, with any breach of these Acts treated as a criminal offence.

This added legislative protection means that anyone who isn’t a sponsor will not have the right to use images or wording which could lead to the false interpretation that their company is, in some way, linked to the Olympic Games.

This includes the use of any of the two words from the list below used in conjunction with each other:

‘Games’, ‘Twenty-Twelve’, ‘2012’ and ‘Two Thousand and Twelve’.

Even just the use of one of these words in conjunction with words such as ‘Summer’, ‘Gold’, ‘Silver’, ‘Bronze’, ‘London’, ‘Sponsors’ or ‘Medals’ may well be considered a breach of the Acts.

It seems that many non-sponsor businesses will be walking on eggshells this July.

Are things not being taken a little too far? For example – last year the organisers of an event entitled the ‘Great exhibition 2012’ were threatened with legal action by Locog (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) because the numbers ‘2012’ were used in the title.

A little petty don’t you think? And perhaps Locog thought so too because they later withdrew their objection but it didn’t stop them from interrupting a recent photo shoot with Sally Gunnell.

The photo shoot was intended to promote easyjet’s new flight routes from London’s Southend Airport. So why was it interrupted I hear you ask, simply because a Union Jack flag was draped over Sally’s shoulders and Locog thought this bore too closer resemblance to a similar pose of Sally’s in 1992 when she won Olympic Gold in Barcelona.

That was 20 years ago, is anyone really going to remember Sally’s exact stance?

Whilst Locog are just trying to protect their sponsors they are putting non-sponsoring businesses in an awful predicament with many of those businesses being forced to seek legal advice to find out how they can stay on the right side of the ‘Olympic Law’.

What should have been an economic boost is now actually causing many small business owners to quake in their boots. These small businesses can’t afford to buy rights to specific advertising or create their own flashy advertising campaigns to promote their businesses and are having to watch their every step in case they inadvertently advertise too close to the mark and end up being prosecuted.

Is this really the way Locog should be behaving?

In a couple of months it will all be over but what’s the betting that, if Locog get their way, it will be many years before some business owners are back on their feet after being sued to the hilt for using a picture of a medal and the date ‘2012’ in their shop window.

Let’s take a look at some of Locog’s stringent regulations.

Rules for athletes participating in the Olympic Games:

Athletes cannot make any comments on social networking sites regarding other participant’s activities
Athletes cannot post any video or audio content on social networking sites or YouTube of either the athletes’ village or the interior of any Olympic venue
Athletes will not be allowed to ‘Tweet’ or blog about what brand of energy bar or breakfast cereal they have been eating unless that brand is an official sponsor of the Games
Rules for non-sponsor businesses

Non-sponsor businesses are not allowed to offer tickets to the Games as part of a company promotion
They cannot use images which could make the public think they are in some way linked or in association with the Olympics
Nor can they use phrases such as “Help us to make it a Gold 2012” or “Supporting our athletes at the Olympic Games 2012”