Vancouver based yoga wear retailing phenom Lululemon Atletica has tweaked the nose of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games (VANOC), with a new line of clothing. A story yesterday reported that Lululemon has introduced a new line of clothing named “Cool Sporting Event That Takes Place in British Columbia Between 2009 & 2011 Edition”. VANOC reportedly is upset that Lululemon has only complied with the letter and not the spirit of the laws in Canada that protect the various trademarks used to promote the Olympic Games generally, and the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games specifically.

The clothing line in question features various items in the national colours of Canada, the U.S., Sweden and Germany. Notably, the Canadian hoodies feature gold zippers while the zippers in the colours of other countries have silver zippers. Lululemon lost out to the Hudson’s Bay Company in its bid to be the official apparel supplier to the Canadian Olympic team for the Summer and Winter Games during the period from 2006 to 2012.

Readers of the Knowledge Bytes newsletter will be aware of the legislative hammers that are at VANOC’s disposal to enforce its trademark rights against both would-be infringers and ambush marketers alike. These include the Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act, which contains lists of specific words that either can’t be used at all, or that can’t be used in combination with other specific words–for example the combination of “Vancouver” and “2010”.

Lululemon, for its part says that it carefully did its legal homework and selected a brand that doesn’t fall afoul of any legislative prohibitions. VANOC appears to have conceded this point, indicating that it will use non-legal tactics to attempt to persuade Lululemon to back off.

As the start of the Winter Games quickly approaches, VANOC will no doubt have its hands full with other creative ambush marketing ploys. VANOC has published spectator guidelines about what will not be tolerated at the Winter Games event venues, including “Ambush marketing of any kind, distribution of leaflets, pamphlets and non-approved publications, promotional material and wearables”.

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Neil Melliship is a Partner and co-chair of the Intellectual Property and Information Technology practice groups at the Vancouver-based Canadian law firm of Clark Wilson LLP. Neil is a lawyer and a registered Canadian Trademark Agent, who actively speaks and writes on trademark and other IP issues including those relating to the Internet, domain name disputes and e-commerce.