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Fourth-Place Medal

Middletons investigated by Olympic committee

Fourth-Place Medal

Associated Press

In a case involving the most unusual of suspects, Kate Middleton's family was under investigation for Olympic wrongdoing.

Her parents, Carole and Mike Middleton, have been running Party Pieces for over 25 years. In celebration of this year's London Games, the website began hocking Olympic-themed items under the "Celebrate the Games" section (with Olympic symbols that are strictly protected). A multicolored paper chain made up of the colors of the five rings of the Olympic logo and a stadium scene-setter featuring a javelin thrower and a sprinter were two of the items in question, along with the "product-pushing" text of the website's blog -- which is authored by Pippa Middleton.

[ Photos: British Royal Zara Phillips an Olympian ]

After investigation, the family was swiftly cleared of copyright infringement but has been asked to modify their Party Pieces website. Most likely that will mean removing or editing the javelin thrower and an Olympic torch.

It isn't the first time the family has been under fire for their business promotions, including a "princess" party kit they sold in advance of the royal wedding. This time around, the consequences could have been more costly. An Olympic trademark penalty can include a fine of up to $30,000.

The trademark shields that the Middletons were accused of violating have been criticized as being "heavy-handed" but under the 2006 Olympic Act, LOCOG was granted broad rights to shield Olympic branding and trademarks. From the Guardian:

As well as introducing an additional layer of protection around the word Olympics, the five-rings symbol and the Games' mottoes, the major change of the (2006 Olympic Act) is to outlaw unauthorized "association".

This bars non-sponsors from employing images or wording that might suggest too close a link with the Games. Expressions likely to be considered a breach of the rules would include any two of the following list: Games, Two Thousand and Twelve, 2012, Twenty-Twelve.

Using one of those words with London, medals, sponsors, summer, gold, silver, or bronze would constitute another likely breach.

The Middleton family received the equivalent of a polite slap on the wrist, proving once again that it doesn't hurt to have friends -- or family -- in high places.

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