Leave.EU rejects request to stop Team GB intellectual property 'violation' in Rio posts

Brexit campaign group Leave.EU says it will not comply with a request from the British Olympic Association to remove social media posts in which it has used protected Olympic terms and "suggested an association" with the Games.

While brands and PR agencies have spent recent weeks toying with Rule 40, an International Olympic Committee regulation protecting its official sponsors, Leave.EU has published social media posts in recent days congratulating British Olympians. The video published in the tweet shown below has now attracted the ire of the BOA.

Some of these posts have suggested that Team GB's success in Rio demonstrates its ability to be successful outside of the EU. Track sprinter Callum Skinner has protested on Twitter about being used in Leave.EU's communications.

An email sent by Leave.EU at lunchtime today, with the subject line "British Olympics Association to sue Leave.EU!", reproduced a letter from the BOA to the campaign group.

The BOA letter says: "We, the British Olympic Association ('BOA') own, protect and enforce all Olympic-related intellectual property [IP] in the UK including (among other things) the word 'Olympic', 'Olympian', 'Team GB', 'Rio 2016', the Olympic Rings logo, the Team GB logo and all Team GB athlete imagery.

"It has come to our attention that the official Leave.EU campaign has published a number of posts on Twitter and via Facebook social media channels (screenshots attached), including a video which extensively utilises the above marks as well as Team GB athlete imagery."

It goes on to ask Leave.EU to do four things by 5pm today (Wednesday); confirm "the extent to which the Leave.EU campaign has been using our IP", confirm that "all social media posts and online content has been immediately removed", confirm how many views and share the video had received on, "confirm you will refrain from making any further use of our IP".

Asked by PRWeek whether the group would comply with the request and remove the content in question, a Leave.EU spokesman said: "No, we're going to ramp it up."

The BOA did not immediately respond to a request from PRWeek to verify the letter and answer other questions, but a spokeswoman later sent a statement. "In some cases during the Games we have to speak to organisations about the misuse of our athletes and team's IP. In this case, given the scale of the use of our intellectual property without our consent, we contacted Leave.EU by email to request them to refrain from doing so. No legal action has been taken," she said.

In addition to the video, the BOA highlighted Leave.EU's posts wishing good luck to its head of comms Andy Wigmore. He has previously represented Belize in shooting competitions, but is not listed on the Games' website as a competitor in 2016.

Leave.EU was launched last year by UKIP-supporting businessman Arron Banks, and has gained a reputation for lively public pronouncements.

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