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