US Olympic Committee’s history of lawsuits against non profit organisations | NowPublic News Coverage

Posted in brands by coda on October 31, 2009
  • tags: brands

    • What do robots, lab rats, rappers and pet ferrets have in common? They’ve all come under fire from the U.S. Olympic Committee for using the word "Olympics."Trademark infringement is proving to be an "Olympic" sport as the United States Olympic Committee has threatened to sue those who use the trademarked term, including the Ferret Olympics and the Nose Olympics. Every Olympic season, the USOC threatens to sue dozens of businesses, clubs and nonprofit organizations for using the trademarked word to promote events or products. USOC lawyers say they’re protecting one of the world’s most lucrative sporting events from "ambush marketing" by companies seeking to profit from the Games. While the committee’s vigilance has certainly thwarted such efforts, it has had another side effect. It’s produced a slew of awkward and often comical substitutes for the forbidden phrase.


      To raise money for her ferret shelter in Eugene, Ore., Melanee Ellis created the Ferret Olympics 13 years ago. The annual competition tests ferrets in events such as racing through a plastic dryer hose, knocking down empty beer cans, and climbing out of a paper bag. During the 2004 Olympics, Ms. Ellis got a call from a USOC lawyer who warned the shelter would be sued for trademark infringement unless she changed the event’s name. "I thought it was a joke," Ms. Ellis says.

      It wasn’t. The event is now called the Ferret Agility Trials.

      Other groups have also struggled to find catchy synonyms. Olympets — a contest in California that tests dogs and other pets in categories such as ball catching, "laziest" and "most disobedient" — changed its name to the National Pet Games after the USOC contacted organizers two years ago. Toy maker Play Vision tried unsuccessfully to register a trademark for the Nose Olympics — a game that includes a pair of gag glasses with attachments like small plastic basketball hoops that wearers can play by tossing their heads around. The company settled for Nose Aerobics.

      Play Visions Inc.
      Nose Aerobics: The object of the game is to get the ball in the basket. The toy’s maker, Play Vision, tried to trademark the name Nose Olympics.

      A biking, swimming and strength contest in Hawaii held to promote raw foods became the Raw Games after the Olympic Committee blocked the organizers’ attempt to register the trademarks "Raw Olympics" and "Rawlympics."


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