The Iron Fist Of The USOC’s Trademark Lawyers

When the U.S. Olympic Committee isn’t busy crushing the dreams of athletes who strongly desire the chance to bring home gold for the red, white and blue, its forcing events like the Ferret Olympics, Olympets, RobOlympics to change their name to protect their trademark.

RoboGames Girl

(Photo of robo athlete and robo athlete groupie taken from RobOlympics RoboGames Web site.)

WALL STREET JOURNAL reports “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.”

Thanks to a 1978 U.S. congressional act gives the Olympic Committee exclusive rights to the words Olympic, Olympiad and Citius, Altius, Fortius, the Olympic motto, which is Latin for ‘faster, higher, stronger,’ the committee has been ruthlessly fighting to keep events like the Ferret Olympics, an 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 from using the word Olympics. In 2004, the event was forced to change its name after a call from the USOC threatening legal action. The event is now called the “Ferret Agility Trials.”

The report chronicles the struggles of several other events that have felt the wrath of the USOC’s legal team including:

  • “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.
  • ROBOlympics, an international competition, which began in 1983, pits robots against each other in 82 categories, including boxing, soccer, kung fu, sumo wrestling and firefighting. The event is now called the RoboGames.

Other names that have been blocked of patents by the USOC include; Biblelympics, Caveman Ughlympics and Olympigs. What kind of country do we live in where someone can’t combine the use of the words “bible” and “olympics” to name their event? My guess is even the losing athletes thank Jesus in their post-game interviews at the Biblelympics, or whatever its called.