Summer Olympics 2012

Kate Middleton's Parents Draw Olympic Scrutiny

Michael Middleton and Carole Middleton
Ian Gavan | GP | Getty Images

After years of planning and billions of dollars in preparation, the 2012 Olympic Games are ready to open in London.

For many in the U.K., it’s a time to celebrate and throw a party. Ready to cash in are Mike and Carol Middleton, the owners of Party Pieces, a party supplies web site. Normally a party product web site may not draw much attention.

According to Reuters, Mike and Carol Middleton have made millions of British pounds since they created their mail-order business 25 years ago. They also know about throwing a high profile party. Their daughter Kate married Prince William in April 2011.

Now, the spotlight brought on by being in-laws to the second in line for the Royal throne has also led to some other, unwanted, attention.

According to London’s The Guardian newspaper, Party Pieces recently faced allegations that it violated the Olympic copyright protection act for selling hundreds of Olympic themed items under a section of the site called “Celebrate the Games.”

The site sells products like 2012 novelty glasses, a ring toss game with five rings the same colors as the Olympic rings and multicolored paper chains that also have a striking resemblance to the five Olympic rings.

Use of the rings is forbidden unless you are one of 11 international sponsors or 44 domestic sponsors who have paid millions of dollars for permission to use the official words and symbols associated with the Olympic Games.

Such items include the iconic rings and even everyday words such as “Olympics”, “gold”, “silver” and “bronze”,  among other things.  The fine for unlawful use is 20,000 British pounds.

The Party Pieces site also contained what The Guardian calls “product-pushing” text, allegedly authored by The Duchess of Cambridge’s sister, Pippa, who is now a celebrity of her own right in London. The blog refers to the Olympic games, without of course, explicitly citing the name of the actual Olympic games. 

Here’s the text used by the site:  “2012 sees a landmark year for celebrations and The Games, which take place between 27th July and 12th August are a standout event”

The London Olympic Organizing Committee (LOCOG) investigated the Middleton’s site and announced “There are no infringements and the products are fine” but they “may ask them to make a tiny tweak to [website] copy.”

It’s familiar territory for the regal in-laws. Party Pieces and the Middletons faced similar charges last year in the lead up to their daughter’s Royal Wedding, for selling unlicensed Royal Wedding items, such as the “Princess” party kit.