Cafe Olympic? Not if the lawyers have their way

The 2010 Olympics Games were billed as the catalyst for East London's regeneration, and the opportunity to make money from the arrival of the five rings has been duly seized upon by the entrepreneurially minded.

The briefest of walks near the Stratford Olympic stadium reveals businesses trying to cash in on a 2012 bonanza. There's the Olympic Café, the rival and not-to-be-confused Café Olympic, and Olympic Internet, all on the same road.

The lawyers are moving in for the kill though, in the first wave of what legal analysts warn will be the toughest enforcement of marketing rules yet at a major international tournament.

The Café Olympic is already receiving the unwanted attentions of the council. Manager Kamel Khichane named his upmarket diner three years ago, after the Olympics was awarded to London, but claims he checked with the council.

"We did not get written permission," he conceded yesterday. "But the council said, 'As long as the signs do not have the Olympic Rings on, it should be OK'.

Mr Khichane, an Algerian who has lived in Stratford for about 20 years, employs three staff. He estimates that the cost of having to change all of his signage would be about £3,000 – a situation he called "a crisis", adding: "We are struggling to just pay the rent as it is. We spent a lot of cash on the advice of the council; the sign outside alone cost me £1,500."

Legislation protects the right of any business which began trading under an Olympics-associated name before 1995 to continue doing so.

"The Olympics is supposed to be helping people like me but then they try to make me take the signs down," he said. "I am still not sure what is going to happen. We don't have the logo but I do not know if we are allowed the name.

"Having the Olympics here is good for the morale of the area. It gives people around here hope that things are going to get better. It also gives me hope that we are finally going to be able to drag ourselves out of the recession.

"At the moment, we are struggling. If they ask us to change the name and the signage then it is going to be difficult for us to survive."

During last year's World Cup in South Africa, a group of women were arrested after appearing to endorse a brand of beer which had not paid sponsorship to football's world governing body, FIFA.

The London 2012 chief executive, Paul Deighton, has warned that any companies – big or tiny – thinking about trying the same trick at the Games will face a "very, very active anti-ambush" unit.

The "Five Rings" logo is among the most recognisable on the planet. The London Organising Committee of the Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is tasked with defending the intellectual property of the 2012 Games against unauthorised use. And that includes any business using Olympics in its name.

A LOCOG spokesman said the organisation tried to "take a pragmatic and proportionate approach" to cases where its rights were potentially infringed. "We concentrate on education, not litigation," he said, adding that the Games budget was "privately raised, with sponsorship providing a large part of this and companies paying millions of pounds to become exclusive partners".

A spokesman for Newham Council said its trading standards officers were "advising businesses" that using certain words and logos related to the Olympics was illegal. The council confirmed that it was looking into the Café Olympic case.

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