Ambush marketing
Produced in partnership with Gowling WLG
Ambush marketing

The following Private Client guidance note Produced in partnership with Gowling WLG provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Ambush marketing
  • Principal legal controls in the UK
  • What is ambush marketing?
  • Intellectual property rights, advertising law and codes, etc
  • Specific legislation
  • Controls over athletes
  • Contractual or other practical controls
  • Practical guidance

This practice note considers, from an English law perspective, the legal issues relating to 'ambush marketing'. The term 'ambush marketing is used to describe promotional activities by a non-sponsor in connection with a major sporting or other event. In the UK, ambush marketing is addressed by a combination of legal measures including trade mark and copyright law, advertising codes, and specific Olympics-related legislation.

Although some legal tools used to combat ambush marketing in the UK are replicated in other jurisdictions (for example, trade marks for which the rules are harmonised across the EU), the legal position tends to vary greatly from one territory to another.

The jurisdictions with the strictest controls are often those which have hosted a major, global, sporting event in their recent history.

Principal legal controls in the UK

In the UK, the principal legal tools used to combat ambush marketing are:

  1. trade marks: Trade Marks Act 1994 (TMA 1994)

  2. passing off: UK common law right, no basis in statute

  3. copyright: Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988)

  4. Committee on Advertising Practice: UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) and UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code)

  5. Olympic and Paralympic Association Rights: Olympic Symbol etc. (Protection) Act 1995 (OS(P)A 1995)

  6. controls over athletes such as the Olympic Charter or the rules