Tag Archives: internet marketing

IP Law Makes Waves In Piracy

Online Piracy Doesnt Hurt SalesOr Does ItShireen Smith, intellectual property law expert and founder of London based law firm Azrights , has expressed her concern about the ongoing battle the games industry faces over piracy issues.

Writing in MCV (The Market for Computer and Video Games) 4 December issue, Shireen discusses how the digital revolution has bought IP law to the fore of every modern business and how the computer and video games industry is “experiencing an intellectual property revolution.”

UK games companies on average grew by 22% between 2011 and 2013 according to Ukie with digital game sales larger than digital video and music sales combined.  Given the commercial significance of the games market, Shireen believes that the computer and video games industry need to take a more serious overview of intellectual property law.

Commenting on Nintendo’s recent high profile legal breakthrough against circumvention devices, Shireen explains that IP issues are threatening large corporations as well as entrepreneurial firms.

“In an ongoing legal battle, Nintendo has made a breakthrough against circumvention devices with the case reaching Europe’s highest court in January 2014.”

“The ‘first instance criminal decision against the defendant puts an international spotlight on what is the legitimate use of devices such as mod chips, which can have non-infringing uses as well as infringing ones.”

“It is likely that similar cases across Europe will soon follow suit as anti-piracy campaigns continue to grow.  It also means that national courts in all EU member countries have a framework to assess whether security measures are protected – a huge success for the international computer and video games industry.  The high profile nature of the case has EU-wide implications on independent software developers, as well as gamers.”

Shireen, who recently launched her new book Intellectual Property Revolution  also provides some guidance for smaller businesses.

“Entrepreneurial businesses may have some misconceptions regarding the approach to IP law.  The advice in employing an IP expert is the earlier the better.  Nowadays SMEs are exposed to a global audience in ways that simply did not occur in the industrial era.  We have more businesses today than we’ve ever had before.”

“In a market which is constantly flooded with innovative concepts, smaller businesses can find themselves at a serious risk of losing out if IP infrastructure is not put in place.  There is greater risk in both the short and long run as smaller businesses often don’t have the time or resources to overcome a legal setback.”

It is not just the video and computer games market that is effected – the intellectual property revolution is happening across industries.

“In the fashion industry, the Kering group (who own Gucci), have recently challenged Alibaba on piracy issues.  There is also ongoing problems faced by the music and film industries with illegal downloads and streaming.”

Shireen’s MCV article titled “IP law clamps down on pirates” can be found here.

Azrights website

Azrights on YouTube

Azrights on Twitter

Intellectual Property Revolution on Amazon

Games Industry Must Ensure it Takes IP Law Seriously

Facebook users mourning the removal of scrabulousAccording to Ukie , the trade body for the games and wider interactive entertainment industry, the UK games industry was worth over £3.9 billion in consumer spend in 2014 and the sector is expected to grow at an annual rate of 8%.

The games industry is relatively new and therefore 95% of companies are microbusinesses or SMEs.  Leading intellectual property (IP) lawyer Shireen Smith thinks that many of these companies could be at risk of losing out as a result of an IP dispute, if they don’t take the necessary steps to protect themselves.

“If names are chosen without involving a trade mark expert, the business is at risk of losing out.  A poor choice of name can lead to a constant loss of value or difficulty in securing registration either in the UK or in other countries.

“An IP expert should always be consulted at the early stages of launching a new business or product.

“Otherwise, as soon as a new business starts up, the business owner might receive notice that it is infringing on another brand.  This can have serious consequences for those that have invested significantly in their branding and search engine optimisation.  Sadly for some, they don’t have the time or resources to overcome such a setback.”

Shireen Smith, who is the founder of London-based law firm Azrightscontinues to give an example.

Scrabulous was an app, created by two Indian brothers, which allowed people to play a Scrabble-like game online with friends anywhere in the world.  It was a huge hit – attracting 600,000 users per day – when in 2008, Hasbro, the owner of the Scrabble trademark, shut it down because their name suggested to the market that this was a similar game to Scrabble.  As trademark law helps to prevent piggybacking off the success of others’ brand, Scrabble was able to get Facebook to pull the Scrabulous app even though it was extremely popular.

“The founders had even applied to register a trademark for their name, clearly unaware of the wide scope of protection that trademarks give.  Had they taken advice before using the name they would have realised the choice was unwise.

“The fact that their app had gone viral did not stop Facebook from simply removing it.  This paved the way for Zynga to create what is now a highly successful app: Words with Friends.  The brothers’ advantage of being the first to build a Scrabble-like app on Facebook was lost, and we will never know how big Scrabulous would have been today if it had opted for a better name.”

Shireen Smith has recently launched a new book called ‘Intellectual Property Revolution’, published by Rethink Press which is all about how to successfully manage IP assets, protect brands and add value to your business in the digital economy.  It is written in plain English and is helpful for business owners and ‘brand guardians’.

A video explaining more about how the digital economy is changing IP can be found here

 

Azrights website
Azrights on You Tube
Azrights on Twitter

 

Leading IP Law Firm Goes Digital

buying the sucks.com version of your brandIn order to raise the profile of her London-based firm Azrights, her book and the importance of intellectual property (IP) as a whole, lawyer Shireen Smith has put her faith in video.

She enlisted the help of London-based video production company Element 26  to produce an animated film  that explains how essential it is for small businesses to protect their IP.

Azrights specialises in helping owners of businesses in the digital economy to use legal frameworks to create intangible assets.  When properly protected, these assets can often become more valuable than the products or services that the business sells

Shireen Smith said, “Lots of people don’t understand the value of IP because they can’t see it or hold it.  To address this, we asked Nathan Haines, Managing Director at Element 26, to produce a video to increase understanding of this vital area of the law.  In the digital economy, IP is changing rapidly and small business owners need to prioritise it to avoid pitfalls.

“By educating business people of the importance of IP law, the video Nathan pro
duced encourages them to approach Azrights for advice or to read my recently launched book ‘Intellectual Property Revolution’.”

Such was the interest in ‘Intellectual Property Revolution that it was a bestseller in its category on Amazon before it had even been launched and continues to be so a week after the launch.

Written in plain English, it explains to business owners and brand ‘guardianshow to successfully
manage IP assets, protect brands and add value to businesses in the digital economy.

Shireen Smith adds, “The new currency in our digital economy is information, know-how, brands, systems and data. Whether people are building a brand identity, launching a new product or service worldwide, or even a start-up business, they’re also creating intellectual property.

“The value and safety of intellectual property has become more important than ever before.  Do it right and the intangible assets you create could be worth more than the products or services themselves.  Do it wrong and you could miss vital opportunities, have your true value stolen or find yourself on the wrong side of an intellectual property dispute.

“Once IP is on the business owners’ radar, it’s crucial for them to consult an IP lawyer in the early stages.  So often, people in business commit to brand names, website URLs and costly designs before speaking to an IP specialist, only to find that their so-called assets lack value.  The video that Azrights had produced will educate start-up owners before they reach this stage.”

Nathan Haines said, “We’re thrilled that the video we produced has been such a success for Shireen and the team at Azrights.  At Element 26, we believe every business has a special story which makes them unique.  As a company we make it our mission to understand our clients’ objectives by collaborating early on in the process, which ensures that the messages to be conveyed are tailored to their specific target audience, not just any audience.

“When Shireen asked us to work with her on the production of her film, we were very excited because animation is more vibrant and colourful than the more traditional interview-led videos.

“By commissioning a film, Shireen is leading by example and has proven that she really believes in the importance of creating intellectual property.  We are proud that this film will be one of the intangible assets that contributes to Azrights’ ongoing success.”

The video, which explains more about how the digital economy is changing IP, can be found on YouTube here.

 

 

Azrights website

Azrights on You Tube

Azrights on Twitter

Element 26

Intellectual Property Revolution on Amazon

FTC ruling on blog paid reviews

Intellectual Property Value – Do You Need Specialist Skills to Value IP?

What Is Your IP Worth?As intellectual property (IP) becomes more recognised as an asset class, interest in it is increasing – so much so that apparently according to the IPKAT Hong Kong property surveyors have been trying to break into assessing the intellectual property value in a business.

They recently called upon overseas bodies (for example, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to promote the virtues of having surveyors perform IP valuations.

As the IPKAT says, the question is whether

  1. IP valuation is a sub-category of business valuations or a self-contained professional endeavor; and
  2. (ii) in either case, to what extent must an IP valuation professional understand the legal context of IP rights?

The starting point is to consider what we mean by IP

What is IP?

The term IP is generally associated with registrable rights like trademarks, patents and designs.  However, SMEs also have many non registrable IP issues to consider, such as copyright, know how, trade secrets, database rights, organisational knowledge and more.

Unless an SME takes advice to identify, manage, and protect its IP assets it could be seriously exposed because intangibles are a poorly understood asset class.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to determining a business’s risks and opportunities. Even  two businesses in the same industry, with similar business model, may have different issues to address depending on how they develop their businesses and what contracts and other arrangements they have in place, For one business copyright may be the critical asset, while for another it may be the database or a patent.

They will not necessarily be equally desirable to an investor as their value on exit would be impacted by a number of factors unique to each business.

Why have an IP valuation?

One issue a valuation will consider is whether there is key IP underpinning a company’s competitive advantage. If so, another question is whether that competitive advantage is adequately protected.

Banks and investors may accept IP assets as valuable security to finance an SME’s growth if the business can demonstrate that those IP assets underpin revenues and forecasts, and impact cash flow.

How the strength of the IP asset is critical

A fictional example may help convey how IP works.

Say a company has developed an innovative solution that becomes well known in its industry. That competitors will copy a good idea is inevitable. So, if a company’s asset isn’t protected with a patent or other barrier to entry, it is more vulnerable to copy cats.

However, where there are no patents to protect the product, it is a mistake to assume there is little you can do to prevent a competitor stealing market share. You may not be able to stop them creating similar products but you may be able to protect your competitive position and create barriers to entry through the name you choose for the product.

The name is a potential barrier to entry because it can stop competitors using similar ones to identify their offerings – but only if it is a name that the business can uniquely use.

If the business chooses a generic name (that is, one that describes what the product does, rather than an actual name), the name will not be capable of protecting the company’s asset. This is so even if the company registers that name as a trademark combined with a logo. Such a registration would effectively only protect the logo where the name is generic.

So the upshot is that the business has a product that gives it a competitive advantage. It has a valuable asset, but not as valuable as it would be if the name was capable of stopping competitors stealing market share when providing ‘me too’ solutions.

That not all names are equally effective at containing IP value is not generally well understood

Shifting value of IP

IP value is rarely static. Intellectual property rights can change in value over time for a variety of reasons. For example, when you first patent something, it’s possible you have a unique solution to a problem so that your patent provides a strong competitive advantage. But then as other solutions to the problem emerge, the value of your patent may be reduced. On the other hand, if you have successfully marketed your product, despite your patent becoming less critical to your competitive advantage, your trademark may have gained value as your name recognition has increased.

So, failing to give a product a distinctive name that is capable of functioning as a trademark, or not checking whether other people’s rights might prevent use of the chosen name long term impacts the value that is generated, and that would inevitably depress the value of your IP.

IP value is impacted by the choices you make

The above example is designed to illustrate how the IP in question, or the choices you make impact IP value. You need to be ready to make changes if needs be. However, names are not the sum total of IP. There are so many other issues that impact IP value.

There are a number of IP actions required in order to build value and wealth. Implementing effective contracts is a hugely important, but misunderstood aspect of IP protection.

Because it is never possible to foresee what problems and scenarios might arise for a business in the future, it is prudent to secure its IP rights to the fullest extent, so the business has adequate protection to protects its position in the market.

Therefore, identifying IP rights, and protecting and managing them, is essential for any ambitious business.

Conclusion

Clearly IP valuation is not an area in which surveyors would have appropriate transferable skills.

IP and business are closely intertwined. In practice, you need to take both into account. That is why it requires the combined skills of business and IP experts to get the most effective IP valuation and strategic advice.

In a future post, I will explore the different methods for valuing IP.

Intellectual Property Revolution – Book Launch – Video Highlights

IP Revolution Book Launch 1

The Intellectual Property Revolution, my second book, was launched with great success on 13 October 2015 at the Institute of Directors in London.

For those of you who were unable to attend the event the next best thing is to watch the videos of the night.

Daniel Priestley of Entrevo, who runs a global entrepreneurship accelerator programme known as Key Person of Influence (that I myself have attended) gave the introductions for the night.

He also took us through the ages pointing out that at one time it was ownership of land that enabled people to build fortunes, these people built themselves a reputation and became influential. Then after this agricultural age came the industrial revolution where people built their fortunes by  owning the means of production. In the digital economy it is intellectual property that is the means to building fortunes. He said millennials would rather spend all their time and money to build start-ups  than purchasing houses or land.

 

Next up was Will Critchlow of Distilled, CEO of a digital marketing agency based in London with offices in the USA. He reinforced the importance of using the right name and protecting intellectual property rights very early on, an issue he himself had encountered at the early stages of his business ventures while at school. Intellectual Property, in particular securing a trade mark helps provide businesses big or small with strong foundations to securely expand and build a reputation they establish. This will strengthen branding strategies becoming real investments rather than failing later on.

 

 

Then finally, I spoke about the importance of taking early IP advice in order to position yourself for maximum value if you succeed, and reduce the risk of disaster. When overlooked, IP can be damaging to the core features of any business. For example, a poor choice of name can be a real set back. This is something I discuss in more detail in my blog Intellectual Property Value – Do You Need Specialist Skills to Value IP?

IP is so important to any business, as the internet now dominates our daily lives, it is the ownership of these intangibles which is so necessary to protect. At Azrights, we offer a fixed price service that provides early stage businesses with comprehensive advice concerning Intellectual Property rights and strategic building of them.

 

There was a chance for guests to mingle over canapes and here are some vox pox and highlights of the event. The vox pox discussions give some insight into why attendees believe IP is so important in today’s society.

While the highlights below will give you a general flavour of the eventful evening.

Since the launch, I have revised the conclusion of the book, as this was a chapter I struggled to write last year. At the time, I wanted to finish the book so I used something. However, having had time to  reflect over the festive period, I have changed the conclusion, and am now very happy that the book will be an easy, insightful read for businesses interested in IP.

The new conclusion fits much better with the book as a whole being a kind of synopsis of the book and summarises the transformative effects of Intellectual Property rights. If you don’t have time to read the whole book, you’d now get a strong indication of what the book is all about by reading just the conclusion and perhaps revisiting the book when time allows.

From net neutrality to copyright

From Net Neutrality To Copyright: Media Law Trends For 2015

From net neutrality to copyrightWith the Internet continuing to develop at a significant rate, media and IP law often struggle to keep up with the advancements.

To get an insight into future developments in the digital world during 2015, the Guardian has written a piece highlighting some of the key areas for media professionals to monitor during 2015. Their piece doesn’t cover data protection because they are devoting an entire article to the topic later this month.

To read the article which looks at recent developments in copyright law following implementation of some of the Hargreaves recommendations, online piracy and net neutrality, go to the guardian by clicking From net neutrality to copyright: media law trends for 2015.

Your Brand and Your Domain Name

Choosing names that say what your business does on the tin may not be the best approach to choosing domain names online, despite it being an approach many businesses have adopted in the past.

Often, it seems like a good idea to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before, taking what looks like the tried and tested approach.

However, whilst in the past descriptive domain names may have given businesses certain advantages online, recent changes to Google’s algorithm at the end of 2012 have done away with many of these previous benefits.

The early days of the Internet

When the Internet was young, and not unlike a small village with just one toy shop, one grocery store, one pet store, and so on, descriptive names or phrases were popular for domain names. People searching for these pioneering online suppliers could readily find them by using descriptive keywords to search for them, and search engines made the websites easy to find.  In those early days if you wanted to find a business, chances are you would just type into your browser Books.com when looking for books or Hotels.com to find somewhere to stay and so on. Nowadays, less than 25% search in this way.

Google’s algorithm

As online business took off, and nearly every business put up a website, the online space became overcrowded.  A high ranking in search results grew to be the key objective of many businesses, as more and more of us turned to Google whenever we wanted to find a product or service, and so the practice of using descriptive domain names became entrenched because Google continued to give a preference to domain names describing what their potential customers were searching for. For example if you were called Jobs.com, you would be more likely to show up in the top results, assuming your website was otherwise well designed.

However, this led to marketers using “exact-match domain names” as a way to cheat the system, pushing low quality websites up in search result listings. With Google’s recent changes to its algorithm, Google has made it harder for sites to cut corners, ensuring that the focus is on quality and relevance. Today, Jobs.com does not even make the top 10 search results for a search for ‘Jobs’.

Brands over descriptive

Selecting descriptive names has never been good practice in branding, as these names do little to set you apart from competitors, but now with Google’s alterations to its algorithm, this method of choosing names is even more inappropriate.

Even before this algorithm change, the online environment that influenced people’s practices has been quietly moving on away from descriptive names, with users searching online being much more likely to opt to visit sites with recognised brand names. Rand Fishkin, a renowned online marketing expert and co-founder of SEOMoz, which helps websites get found online, summed up the point concisely in a recent blog post: ‘Unbranded sites may be losing significant amounts of traffic vs. their better-branded competition. Choosing a “keyword-match” domain seems like a worse decision than ever’.

We couldn’t agree more, and encourage readers to take care when choosing a domain name for products and services.  Choosing a distinctive name comes with a whole host of benefits, not least of which is the opportunity to own it through trade mark registration. It is also easier to deal with competitors who seek to copy your domain names. Do get in touch if this resonates with you, and you want to find out more about branding your business.

How To Secure An Unusual Trademark

Whilst the most common use of trademarks is to legally protect brand names or logos, this is by no means the only way in which a trademark reinforces a brand.

Trademarks act to identify the source of a good or service to consumers, and therefore a trademark can cover any aspect of a brand that denotes a particular company in the mind of consumers. For example, as mentioned on the Azrights blog Cadbury secured the colour purple as a trademark, Coca Cola has trademarked its iconic glass bottle shape.

With the Internet making competition ever more fierce, and difficult for brands to stand out, securing an unusual trademark could help give your company that added distinctiveness which competitors could not emulate. However, securing an unusual mark is not straightforward.

The way Coca-Cola was able to get a monopoly over its bottle shape demonstrates what can be involved in securing an unusual trademark.

Coca-Cola & its distinctive bottle shape

The design of Coca-Cola’s instantly recognisable glass bottle is highly distinctive. Even feeling the contoured bottle shape in the dark can be enough for the identity of the brand to be instantly recognised. Coca-Cola’s bottle shape helps it to stand out from the crowd because no other drinks manufacturer is able to copy its bottle design.

However, this is something that the company has had to gradually achieve over a number of years.

In order to be granted a trademark for the shape, Coca-Cola first protected the bottle design with a registration which gave it a monopoly over the design.  In the EU a design registration gives you a maximum of 25 years protection. Therefore, although a design registration is effective in the short-run, in order to ensure long term exclusivity Coca-Cola needed a trademark.

In order to get a trademark granted Coca Cola had to make sure the bottle design was associated in consumers’ minds with its name.  So, the bottle needed to be identified with the brand whenever they saw the bottle. To achieve this, the company promoted the bottle heavily during the time it had design protection.

Once consumers did identify the bottle shape with Coca-Cola the company was able to secure a trademark over the bottle shape.  This means that as long as Coca-Cola renews its trademark, and uses the bottle shape, no other company in the world can use such a bottle shape.  That is very powerful IP indeed.

How you can secure an unusual trademark

So if your company wants to gain a monopoly over a particular brand identifier, make it can become synonymous with your brand.  You’ll need to put appropriate intellectual property rights in place in order to stop competitors copying your branding in the meantime. So, if you want to associate a shape with your brand, make sure you register it soon enough, using a series of images to properly protect the design first.  If you have an effective registration that can give you a monopoly over the shape for 25 years, then vigorously promote the design as something that is synonymous with your brand. For those on a smaller budget, social media may make it more affordable to achieve such a task without breaking the bank.

If you want to secure a trademark in a colour, or other unusual identifier, let us know by completing our enquiry form. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the legal aspects of branding why not buy a copy of Legally Branded, a book that explains the relevant law in an accessible way?

Copyright Protection: How to Manage Copyright in an Unregulated Space

‘I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.’ – Charles Dickens

Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ is a tale of generosity, giving, and a story often attributed to reigniting the Victorian Christmas spirit at a time when it had started to wane. Indeed, it has been attributed as being partly responsible for the way we celebrate Christmas today.

Dickens and ‘Piracy’

When it was published the book was an immediate success, selling six thousand copies on the first few days of sales. However, despite the book’s success, Dickens did not make much money out of it in part because his work suffered at the hand of ‘pirates’.

Unlike today, copyright laws in the Victorian times did not give protection in countries outside of where a work was first produced and created. Therefore after ‘A Christmas Carol’ was published, copies started popping up abroad in America, produced by publishing houses very cheaply.  They gave Dickens absolutely no financial benefit.

Berne Convention

As the world continues to change, laws, and in this instance copyright laws, sometimes take a while to adapt to the new problems these changes present. It was not until 1893, 50 years after the publication of ‘A Christmas Carol’, that the Berne Convention was created to give authors copyright protection over their work abroad as well as in the country in which the work was created

Copyright in the Internet Age

However, even though nowadays owners of copyrighted work no longer have to worry about the lack of control over work being produced abroad, there is a new challenge that has not yet been solved by current copyright laws: the Internet.

Your company might not be looking to create the next ‘A Christmas Carol’, but content your company produces may still be extremely valuable for the business – yet the Internet can make it difficult to ensure that people don’t misuse your copyrighted content.

Sometimes when the laws have not caught up with advances in technology, it is an unfortunate reality that there is little you can do in practice to tackle infringement, beyond prevention.

You can campaign for changes in the law (as Dickens tried to do in the Victorian times), or hope that there will be a way for the law to better protect your work or content.  However, sometimes the best that you can do is to understand how to benefit from the work you produce in the unregulated world of the Internet, despite the fact that some people may take advantage of your work and infringe your copyright.

The ‘Freemium’ Business Model

An important factor in building success online is attracting customers to your website. And in this Internet age one of the main things people are looking for is information, meaning that freely available and useful online content can be vital in achieving online success.

Giving information away for free can actually prove financially beneficial in unexpected ways. For Dickens, despite the fact he did not make money in the US from selling copies of his book, when he went over there to visit he discovered that he had a large fan base, and managed to make a good amount of money from giving readings of his works.

This just goes to show that just because the law might not adequately protect your copyrighted content from pirates; it does not always mean your company will suffer. Some successful bands have also profited from giving material away for free.  For example, Radiohead decided to allow customers to decide how much they paid for their album ‘In Rainbows’. And The Grateful Dead managed to create a devoted following and generate $60 million a year through their unorthodox approach to protecting their intellectual property, such as by allowing audiences to tape their concerts.

Managing Your Copyright Online

However, if you are concerned about keeping your copyright protected, here are some tips that might help:

  • Before publishing content online, evaluate what the consequences might be for your business if someone copied your content
  • Consider using measures like backlink, Google Alerts or copyscape.com to help you track down people who copy your site’s content.
  • If you know the Internet Protocol (IP) address of a copyright infringer, you can ban them from using your website (although they could still get round this by changing their IP address).

If you want to learn more about how to protect copyright or other IP online, buy a copy of Legally Branded. You can download free chapter of the book here.

This post was co-authored by Chloe Smith

Will Olympic Brand Protection Cost Michael Phelps His Medals?

Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, famous for being the most decorated Olympian of all time, may be getting attention for all the wrong reasons recently. He appears to have landed himself in trouble with the International Olympics Committee following a leaked photo featuring the athlete lying in a bath tub as part of an ad campaign for Louis Vuitton.

As we discussed in our previous blog article, the IOC have been getting a lot of attention this year for their harsh regulations and brand policing during the games.  Preventing any brands other than the official sponsors of the games from piggybacking off of the IOC’s high profile is the reason for their  approach.

Earlier this year a new rule (rule 40) was implemented which was designed to prevent athletes from promoting non-Olympic sponsored brands from July 27th to August 15th.

The photo for the ad campaign surfaced on Twitter on 13 August, putting Michael Phelps in breach of this regulation. However, Phelps is not the first athlete to have been impacted by this rule; team GB were warned against wearing Beats’ headphones that had been sent by the company to their hotel rooms, and Yohan Blake may receive a fine for wearing a $500,00 Millie watch rather than one made by Omega, official watchmaker of the games.

In the case of Michael Phelps there might be more far reaching consequences. The leaked photos could potentially disqualify the athlete as the IOC rules state ‘A competitor or a team may lose the benefit of any ranking obtained in relation to other events at the Olympic Games at which he or it was disqualified or excluded; in such case the medals and diplomas won by him or it shall be returned to the IOC’.

Whether or not Michael Phelps’s medals will be put in jeopardy rests on whether the photo was leaked intentionally by Louis Vuitton. The company declares that the photos were unofficial and that the campaign was not due to run until 16 August, similarly Phelps’s agent Peter Carlysle has stated that there is no issue with the IOC as the athlete did not authorise the photos to go out.

Will Phelps loose his medals? Does this show a fundamental problem with rule 40 in relation to the Olympics? We asked before whether the IOC’s strict regulations concerning brand promotion during the games were too harsh or whether they were an understandable way to protect the Olympic brand, but what do you think might happen now that the rule might cause an athlete to lose his hard earned medals?