Next year’s Olympic Games mean that both the City of London and global coverage of the events will be awash with logos, slogans, brands and other sponsorship paraphernalia come summer 2012.

As the competing athletes get busy completing their training, so too have a particular group of learned athletes, otherwise known as IP lawyers, kept busy by flexing their legal muscles in preparation for an epic battle. Whoever wins in the end must indeed go faster, higher and stronger in that blood sport known as IP litigation.

I was kindly invited to a seminar on brands and Intellectual Property (IP) at Wedlake Bell, a London Law firm, which helped to bring into sharp focus the current state of the IP landscape, (i.e.: Copyright, Trademark, Designs and Patents), and their legislation or regulation in the UK and Europe. The half day seminar touched on several interesting and notable IP related developments, regulation or litigation outcomes including:

  • The Cookie regulation - Or The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 2011 which requires websites that use cookies to have clear, detailed information about its use, storage, access etc., as well as opt-in consent from the end-user.
  • London 2012 Olympics - Covered the looming London2012 games and all it entails, e.g. the need to defend against such tactics as Ambush Marketing, as well as the introduction of a specific right to prevent unfair association with the games called the London Olympic Association Right .
  • Freedom of Expression vs. Privacy - Discussed the tension between these two strange bedfellows, as well as highlighting the bright line boundary of commercial or state secret infringement versus the blurred line of private information made public (i.e. intrusion of privacy). Not quite the same thing it seems!
  • Copyright issues - Looked at the challenges facing copyright law and its modern use and interpretation such as the vexed question of just what constitutes a ‘substantial part’ in copyright infringement. Oh, and by the way, newspaper headlines may be copyright too!
  • Social media and the law - this final session showed how, despite evidently wide-held belief to the contrary, the law can, and does, apply to social media users. Seven types of social media usage, and some resulting litigation, were used to illustrate how the law can impact unwary users of social media, e.g.: insults, uploading, marketing, employees, litigating, gossip and jokes. Also the memorable analogy of just how social media users are very like London cyclists, (i.e. an explosion in great numbers of modish, largely anonymous individuals who may assume the law does not apply to them), helped to bring the point home.

In conclusion, this seminar provided an excellent update on the state of play with IP and brands; litigation and legislation; as well as historical challenges and emerging trends and usage scenarios. It is the sort of useful event, and time well spent, which I would recommend to any person or organisation with even the least exposure to IP, digital social media and the laws and regulations that govern their use. With that in mind, perhaps the toughest contests of the London2012 games may well be fought in courtrooms across the land. IP athletes to your starting positions.

About the author

Jude Umeh is a trusted advisor and digital innovator with track record of helping clients identify and define forward-looking business / technology strategies to capitalise opportunities and adapt to the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution. A published author and Thought Leader in Digital Content and Rights Management, Jude currently works at Salesforce, in Advisory Services, he is a Fellow of BCS, Chartered Institute for IT (FBCS), and Liveryman at the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, All opinions are his own.