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UN Spins Corporate Use of its Name, But S-G Ban Consent Required

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 17 -- The UN is not only engaged in union busting, in connection with the audio visual technicians who staff UN Television: it has also allowed its new contractor TeamPeople to violate UN rules and New York law.

On June 13, Inner City Press asked

Inner City Press: This is a labor question. The contract for the audio-visual services was recently awarded, and the company that got it is [inaudible]. [ICP note: it's TeamPeople.] They put out a press release.. Im told that there is some kind of UN rules against using UN names in a corporate press release. I wonder if this violates the rule or if there was some waiver.

Spokesperson Nesirky: I think I will be able to provide you something on that a little bit later, Matthew.

And sure enough, after close of business the following came in:

From: UN Spokesperson - Do Not Reply [at]
Date: Thu, Jun 13, 2013 at 5:55 PM
Subject: Your questions on the new audiovisual contrac
To: Matthew Russell Lee [at]

Regarding the press release issued by TeamPeople: As a general rule, the use of the UN name is reserved for official purposes and is not authorized for commercial purposes. This general prohibition is included in our general conditions of contract and forms part of every contract we conclude with vendors. However, this prohibition does not extend to the provision of purely factual information.

This response ignores not only the UN rule -- there is no "purely factual information" exception -- but also New York law.

The use of the UN name "for commercial purposes" has been prohibited by the General Assembly since 1946, and is only allowable if authorized by the Secretary General. See this:

Although the UN flag may be freely displayed to demonstrate support for the UN and its work, use of the UN emblem, name or initials for commercial purposes is restricted by General Assembly resolution 92(I), which was adopted in 1946. The resolution states that the UN emblem and seal could not be used without the authorization of the Secretary-General in order to prevent its misuse.

And see this:

L. Use of the United Nations Organization Names or Emblems

The Supplier shall not use the name, emblem or official seal of any UN Organizations, for any purpose.

M. Prohibition on Advertising

The Supplier shall not advertise or otherwise make public that it is furnishing goods or services to UN Organizations without specific permission of the UN Organization in each instance.

And see this:

"Commercial use" of the name and emblem should be distinguished from "use by a commercial entity"(see general principle (c)). The former "implies use in connection with or for furtherance of a profit-making enterprise."

And New York law:

N.Y. GBS. LAW 141 : NY Code - Section 141: Unlawful use of the name United Nations

No person, firm or corporation shall, without express authority from the secretary general of the United Nations, assume, adopt or use as, or as a part of a corporate, assumed or trade name, for advertising purposes, or for the purposes of trade, or for any other purpose, the name United Nations, or abbreviation thereof; or any official emblem or other official insignia thereof; nor shall any person, firm or corporation, with intent to deceive or mislead the public, for any of such purposes, assume, adopt or use any name, designation or style, or simulation thereof, or designation or style, or simulation thereof, which may deceive or mislead the public as to the true identity of such person, firm or corporation or as to the official connection of such person, firm or corporation with the United Nations. A violation of this section shall be a misdemeanor.

  By this, whether it's a crime turns on whether Ban Ki-moon authorized the corporate use of the UN's name in this instance. Watch this site.

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