Thursday, October 8, 2009

US Olympic Committe is testing the limits of USC Title 36, Section 220506 (d)(3)(c)

As the Olympic torch made its way through San Francisco back in April 2008, I took the opportunity to write a bit about the special intellectual property rights enjoyed by the US Olympic Committee. The long and short of it is that, by act of Congress, the USOC's right to use the Olympic moniker, or

“Olympiad”, “Citius Altius Fortius”, “Paralympic”, “Paralympiad”, “Pan-American”, “America Espirito Sport Fraternite”, or any combination of those words.
is protected under US Code Title 36, Section 220506. For some reason, I found this fascinating, and even wrote a follow-up post linking to funny Wall Street Journal Article about some of the would-be Olympic-style names that have been shut down over the years. Also of interest to me are the exemptions in the law, including some grandfather provisions and a very specific geographic exemption for
business, goods, or services [that] are operated, sold, and marketed in the State of Washington west of the Cascade Mountain range and operations, sales, and marketing outside of this area are not substantial.
Despite my expectation that such narrow exemptions would not make much of a difference to anybody, the AP reported this week that Olympia, WA's Olympian newspaper is the target for the USOC's latest lawsuit for infringement against their mark.

The Olympian has responded by pointing out that it has used the name since 1889 and that it resides West of the demarcation line.

As a brief personal aside, I'd like to point out that this has been a bad year for both newspapers and for the US Olympic Committee. Perhaps the USOC is feeling a bit down and is looking for an easy target upon which to vent...

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