United States Olympic Committee Threatens To Sue The Redneck Olympics

The United Stats Olympic Committee has issued a formal letter stating its intent to sue the “Redneck Olympics” over the use of the word “Olympic.” The Committee insists that it owns the word Olympic — despite the fact that it refers to an ancient sporting event from Greece that preceded both the United States and copyright/trademark laws. (It turns out that this early depiction of the Greek Olympics had been long misinterpreted as a race. It is actually early Greek lawyers serving an organizer with a complaint over the use of the word Olympic in 776 BC).

I have previously complained about the ever-expanding claims of copyright and trademark rights over common terms or symbols. Congress and the Obama Administration have continued to yield to lobbyists demanding more protections, including criminal protections, despite the stifling impact on creativity and discourse.

This would be akin to someone claiming ownership of the word “Redneck.”

It appears that a special law was passed given the Committee this ownership over a term created thousands of years ago:

§ 220506. Exclusive right to name, seals, emblems, and badges
(a) Exclusive Right of Corporation.— Except as provided in subsection (d) of this section, the corporation has the exclusive right to use—
(1) the name “United States Olympic Committee”;
(2) the symbol of the International Olympic Committee, consisting of 5 interlocking rings, the symbol of the International Paralympic Committee, consisting of 3 TaiGeuks, or the symbol of the Pan-American Sports Organization, consisting of a torch surrounded by concentric rings;
(3) the emblem of the corporation, consisting of an escutcheon having a blue chief and vertically extending red and white bars on the base with 5 interlocking rings displayed on the chief; and
(4) the words “Olympic”, “Olympiad”, “Citius Altius Fortius”, “Paralympic”, “Paralympiad”, “Pan-American”, “America Espirito Sport Fraternite”, or any combination of those words.
(b) Contributors and Suppliers.— The corporation may authorize contributors and suppliers of goods or services to use the trade name of the corporation or any trademark, symbol, insignia, or emblem of the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, the Pan-American Sports Organization, or of the corporation to advertise that the contributions, goods, or services were donated or supplied to, or approved, selected, or used by, the corporation, the United States Olympic team, the Paralympic team, the Pan-American team, or team members.
(c) Civil Action for Unauthorized Use.— Except as provided in subsection (d) of this section, the corporation may file a civil action against a person for the remedies provided in the Act of July 5, 1946 (15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq.) (popularly known as the Trademark Act of 1946) if the person, without the consent of the corporation, uses for the purpose of trade, to induce the sale of any goods or services, or to promote any theatrical exhibition, athletic performance, or competition—
(1) the symbol described in subsection (a)(2) of this section;
(2) the emblem described in subsection (a)(3) of this section;
(3) the words described in subsection (a)(4) of this section, or any combination or simulation of those words tending to cause confusion or mistake, to deceive, or to falsely suggest a connection with the corporation or any Olympic, Paralympic, or Pan-American Games activity; or
(4) any trademark, trade name, sign, symbol, or insignia falsely representing association with, or authorization by, the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee, the Pan-American Sports Organization, or the corporation.

Organizer Harold Brooks insisted ‘I’m not basing it on your Olympics, I’m basing it on the Olympics in Greece.’” Fair point. Yet, the Committee previously forced a Minnesota band called “The Olympic Hopefuls” to change its name. I do not understand why more people are not outraged over such proprietary claims. The Olympics is a historical term used for sporting games. It seems grossly unfair that one group can claim such a historical term — in existence since 776 BC. Why not trademark the term “marathon” or “Mardi Gras”? While I enjoy watching the lawyer relay of trademark complaints (as well as the summons-javelin throw), Congress needs to look into the absurd growth of trademark limitations on common terms and symbols.

Source: Sun Journal

Jonathan Turley

33 thoughts on “United States Olympic Committee Threatens To Sue The Redneck Olympics

  1. It has been a really long time ago and I may have this a bit garbled. If memory serves correctly, when zoom lenses were first invented somebody tried to patent the laws of physics that made such lenses work. The attempt to patent a law of physics was rejected.

  2. If the USOC claim of copyright ownership to “olympics” is arguably valid, what does that say about other groups presently using the word. Special Olympics certainly comes to mind. And if they can challenge such an historically-recognized word, can they also challenge similar and variant words? How about Olympia, Washington? Will the USOC go after other targets? I can imagine the Redneck Olympics might receive a little less sympathy than Special Olympics.

  3. These assholes sued the “Olympics Of the Mind” people forcing them to change their name a few years back. It was a profitless organization designed to create competition between school age kids to foster creative thinking and problem solving. It was in no way a threat nor would it in any way affect the actual Olympics but that did not seem to matter.

    Besides being greedy, bribe-taking misanthropes they proved they are not really interested in bettering humanity.

  4. And don’t forget that they (the Olympic Committee) successfully sued the Gay Olympics forcing them to change their name to the Gay Games. The suit was represented by Vaughn Walker… yep, the same guy who would later be the (gay) Judge who presided over the recent Prop 8 case in California.

    It is interesting to note that the Olympics authorizes the use of the word for the Specials Olympics.

  5. I recall the reason the entertainer, Prince, resorted to a mystical symbol for his “name” and was introduced as, “The entertainer formerly known as Prince,” was due to a dispute with his record label over who owned the name, “Prince.” He resumed use of his name after the dispute was settled.

    Many may recall that nothing was heard from Creedence Clearwater Revival for a number of years. When the band was young, they signed a contract with their first label that was reportedly not equitable. When they tried to get out of the contract, they couldn’t. John Fogerty began performing for a time on his own. He said later that his old label objected because he “sounded too much like John Fogerty.”

  6. Here is to memories of the best of times and the worst of times. We were young and full of spirit, but there was a war on. Hell of a thing to remember when you are old.

  7. Dredd
    1, August 10, 2011 at 10:04 am
    The Red Neck’s lawyer probably won’t have much fun in this case.

    ************************

    Sports
    Maine ‘Redneck Olympics’ Warned to Drop ‘Olympics

    HEBRON, Maine – The Maine organizer of the “Redneck Olympics” says he’s being warned by the U.S. Olympic Committee to drop the word “Olympics” from the name.

    Redneck Olympics organizer Harold Brooks says he received a telephone call Monday from an official at the USOC warning him to change the name of his event or face a lawsuit.

    Brooks says he was told the word “Olympics” is the property of the USOC. He says the word has been around for 8,000 years and he’s referring to the old word.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2011/08/10/maine-redneck-olympics-warned-to-drop-olympics/#ixzz1Udk4utnA

    My question is, did the US Congress authorize this act of the USOC? If not, my understanding of American History is that it only dates back to 1776. How in the hell can you claim ownership that is rightfully a Greek tradition and is about 7,750 years older than the one claiming ownership?

    Oh yes, this is the American way.

    Do we have any copyright/trademark attorneys that post on this blog?

    Here ya go Bubba:

  8. Did everyone miss this blurb in the original article:

    Under the U.S. Amateur Sports Act of 1978, the committee has exclusive rights to the name in the U.S.

    Here is the text of the pertitent section, 36 USC § 220506:

    § 220506. Exclusive right to name, seals, emblems, and badges

    (a) Exclusive Right of Corporation.— Except as provided in subsection (d) of this section, the corporation has the exclusive right to use—
    (1) the name “United States Olympic Committee”;
    (2) the symbol of the International Olympic Committee, consisting of 5 interlocking rings, the symbol of the International Paralympic Committee, consisting of 3 TaiGeuks, or the symbol of the Pan-American Sports Organization, consisting of a torch surrounded by concentric rings;
    (3) the emblem of the corporation, consisting of an escutcheon having a blue chief and vertically extending red and white bars on the base with 5 interlocking rings displayed on the chief; and
    (4) the words “Olympic”, “Olympiad”, “Citius Altius Fortius”, “Paralympic”, “Paralympiad”, “Pan-American”, “America Espirito Sport Fraternite”, or any combination of those words.

    This case has little to do with traditional trademark law. The USOC has a special statute conferring all the rights in the mark OLYMPICS and even has a statutory remedy.

    And a quick search of the Trademark Office’s database reveals hundreds of OLYMPIC marks, most likely for different goods/services and/or diferent channels of trade.

  9. Did I miss that the Olympics have been around for 8k years? No, How can someone license and regulate what they do not own, other than hooking?

    Now, get down on all four and bark. You heard your master.

  10. @Redneck Attorney,

    Trademark law is based on use. When use ends, trademark rights extinguish. No doubt that’s what happened with the Olympics mark which fell out of use for these goods/service until the modern revival. At that point no one owned the rights to the mark. And at that point it was fair game for a subsequent owner to adopt.

  11. Is that a personal attack? It appears to be thinly veiled as ad hominem, not directed at any particular person.

  12. From the article referenced: “In 1982, an athletic event called the “Gay Olympics” changed its name to the “Gay Games” when the committee threatened a lawsuit.”

    The USOC sued and won; in the USSC 483 U.S. 522 argued 3/24/87, decided 6/25/87.

    http://laws.findlaw.com/us/483/522.html

    PS: Special Olympics given permission for use by USOC in 1971; Olympic stain & paints exempt as established in 1938 well before act; as are most references to geographic regions named prior to Feb 6, 1998 as per statue.

    PPS: Glad you and your family had a well deserved and fantastic vacation and all your guest bloggers are/were terrific!

  13. raff, John Fogerty joined the Army Reserve. He served at Ft. Bragg, Fort Knox and and Ft. Lee. He was discharged in 1967. His music was an iconic sound on radio in Vietnam but I don’t think he was ever deployed overseas. When he dies, If he is buried in a National Cemetery, his marker will indicate he served in the Vietnam Era.

  14. Redneck Attorney:

    “Is that a personal attack? It appears to be thinly veiled as ad hominem, not directed at any particular person.”

    ************************

    Why, yes, yes it was and very perceptive of you to notice. It ranks right up there with JT’s vicious “Thanks Kderosa, I will add that to the article.” Try to behave a bit more gently there my crimson collared friend. We are in the tippy-toe “Land of The Thin Skinned Trolls,” and their whimper is worse than their bite. :D

  15. Well Mr. Mespo,

    I was questioning why someone with a history as Mr. or Mrs. Kderosa would care at all if someone attacked them. I have been witness to a number of proverbial hangings, lynching and pure ole bat shit crazy Judges. They are Gawd don’t you know.

    Sometimes, when Gawd ain’t around and she/he people may or may not get the justice they deserve. Sometimes Justice come around like a Buddhist monkey on crack and you don’t want to be in the same room with em. Reminds me of an ex, lardy, lardy she never did crack nor did she shares hers very often at least with me.

  16. RA, you seem to know some of the same judges I do. When they put on that black robe, they take on aspects of the Deity. If you do not believe it, just ask them.

    I recall one judge in Mississippi who cited a fellow for contempt. Problem was, the incident took place in a convenience store. Seems the fellow made an unseemly remark to the judge–who was not in his robe, but was blocking traffic in the driveway. Naturally, the judge would not be wearing his black robe out in the Mississippi summer heat but still expected the same deference in a gas station as in the courtroom.

  17. Refflaw: “Great music video. I think Fogarty was a Nam veteran if my memory is correct.”

    John Fogarty and Doug Clifford received draft notices, but John had enlisted in the Army Reserve, while Doug had enlisted in the Coast Guard Reserve.

    In deference to the age of CCR fans, “bad moon out tonight” has been changed to “there’s a bathroom on the right.”

  18. You think this is bad? Well it is, obviously, but the Olympic “London 2012 team” has gone one step further and actually tried to ban someone from using “2012” in the name of an exhibition. That’s right, they are trying to trademark the name of a year. If this succeeds then I imagine that all words, numbers and possibly even sounds will soon become trademarked, and therefore only allowed to be used by the company that owns them. What a tragic direction for humanity. Although this isn’t exactly state oppression, nonetheless I imagine Orwell would be spinning in his grave.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-13761074

  19. How is this Obama’s fault? That chapter of the US Code is called the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. It was passed in 1998. Sponsored by–hello–a republican. That’s who moved to give the USOC these exclusive rights.

    The change made in 2006 was to correct a typo.

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