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Ambush threat to Olympic torch relay

The relay of the Olympic torch through the UK before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games is likely to be a prime target for ambush marketers, according to a lawyer in charge of protecting IP at this year’s Games

Farisha Constable, a brand protection lawyer from the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, says that the torch relay is harder to police than would-be ambush marketing attacks in or around sporting venues during the Games.

The torch is due to be carried by 8,000 people on a route that LOCOG says comes within 10 miles (16km) of 95% of the population of the UK, Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey during May, June and July this year.

“Our presenting partners [Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung] are part of the convoy that goes around the country and because this is essentially a moving Olympic event, there are brand protection issues,” Constable told Managing IP.

“They are very different from those for a fixed venue where the field of play must be cleared of all branding. These run up and down high streets and it’s very much a community-style event.”

Torch relays at other Games have been hit by ambush marketing, although it is often small-scale. In China, for example, Bloomberg reported that employees from a Taiwanese food company held up banners and gave out balloons bearing the Olympic and their own corporate logos.

Constable says her team plans to “be reasonable and pragmatic, provide education upfront, and work with the local authorities” when dealing with the torch relay. But she said that the work requires a different kind of speed compared to responding to guerrilla marketing at the Games venues.

“Focusing on what’s really important is key for the torch relay. That’s not dissimilar to general infringements – it’s about impact, visibility and scale.”

Last month LOCOG announced it will run a full dress rehearsal of the torch relay between Leicester and Peterborough on April 20.

You can read more about Constable’s work in our series of day-in-the-life interviews here.

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