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May 28, 2017

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London cracks down against unofficial Olympic souvenirs

LONDON -- The London Olympics pop up on teapots, bunting and a one-eyed mascot — but strict branding laws are in place to ensure that official products are the only ones in the race.

Union Jack umbrellas bearing the 2012 logo are sure to be a hit if the British weather doesn't brighten up and would contribute to the 1 billion pounds (US$1.57 billion) of merchandise which Olympics organizers hope to sell.

But souvenir seekers looking for something more unusual may have to dig a little deeper.

Unauthorized T-shirts showing The Beatles carrying the Olympic rings as they cross a London street in the iconic picture from their "Abbey Road" album cover have been spotted at one street market in the British capital.

However it is rare to find unofficial goods which have slipped through the net.

The restrictions on Olympics branding are watertight and have given rise to several widely reported cases where small businesses have fallen foul of the law, apparently deterring others from doing the same.

Butcher Dennis Spurr hit the headlines when he was ordered to take down a sign at his shop in Weymouth, southern England, because it depicted a string of sausages in the formation of the Olympic rings.

Then there was the lingerie shop in Melton Mowbray, central England, which was forced to take down five colored hula hoops hung on sports-bra mannequins in its window display.

Dorothy Weston, a sales assistant at JJ's Lingerie, said she was "completely shocked" when trading standards officers entered the store on the day the Olympic torch was passing through the town and ordered the owners to remove the rings.

"They said we had to take them down because it contravenes rules on protection of the Olympic logo ... and that we could be fined or even imprisoned," she said.

"All we were selling were bras," she added. "It was really disheartening."

Under the legislation introduced in 1995, the Olympic rings, the London 2012 logo, and the official mascot — the one-eyed Wenlock — are all protected by law.

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