The Government has introduced The Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bill (the Bill) which contains a number of essential measures to ensure commercial rights are robustly protected.
The measures proposed in the Bill are temporary for the period of the Commonwealth Games to be held in Birmingham in 2022 (the Games) and all have precedence in previous legislation for major sporting events, such as the London Olympics in 2012.
The effect of the specific provisions in the Bill is to supplement and strengthen existing advertising and intellectual property law, in particular in relation to ambush marketing (i.e. attempts by a party to associate themselves with the reputation or prestige of an event without paying for that right). It is important that the value of the rights relating to the Games' brand is protected, as the Birmingham 2020 Organising Committee (the Organising Committee) is able to generate substantial income by selling sponsorship rights and other rights of association with the Games to 'partner' organisations. These revenue streams are then used to fund the costs of running the Games.
Key Games provisions
The government has included two key provisions in the Bill relevant to advertising and marketing activities relating to the Games:
- A general prohibition on unauthorised association with the Games (the General Prohibition)
Infringement of this provision will occur where a person, in the course of trade, makes use of any representation (without permission) which is likely to suggest to the public that there is an association between that person, (or any goods or services), and the Games. For the purposes of the Bill a 'use of a representation' is interpreted very widely and can include applying a representation to goods or documents, importing or exporting goods that bear a representation or providing or offering services by reference to a representation.
The Organising Committee may grant specific authorisations to use representations to associate with the Games.
- The restriction of marketing activities in relation to the Games within certain designated locations (Games Location Advertising)
This restriction makes it an offence for any person, to carry out Games Location Advertising, to arrange such advertising, or to permit the carrying out of such advertising. Games Location Advertising is carried out if a person does something in/close to a specified Games location for the purpose of promoting a product, service or business to members of the public who are either in/close to, a Games location, or are watching or listening to a broadcast of a Games event.
The Organising Committee may grant specific authorisations to carry out Games Location Advertising.
The rights granted to the Organising Committee will generally be exploited through the subsequent granting of specific rights of association under sponsorship agreements.
The Bill only recently had its second reading in the House of Lords, however, it seems likely that the Bill will pass without substantial amendment, as it largely mirrors similar provisions which were put in place for the London Olympics in 2012. Consequently, businesses should carefully consider the content and medium of any advertising and marketing campaigns proposing to include any link to the Games.