Thursday, June 21, 2012

Camel Privy*

Oh my.  Our knickers are definitely in knots.  Casey, at Ravelry, received this from the lawyers of the Olympic Committee.

Dear Mr. Forbes,
In March 14, 2011, my colleague, Carol Gross, corresponded with your attorney, Craig Selmach [sic], in regard to a pin listed as the "2010 Ravelympic Badge of Glory." At that time, she explained that the use of RAVELYMPIC infringed upon the USOC's intellectual property rights, and you kindly removed the pin from the website. I was hoping to close our file on this matter, but upon further review of your website, I found more infringing content.
By way of review, the USOC is a non-profit corporation chartered by Congress to coordinate, promote and govern all international amateur athletic activities in the United States. The USOC therefore is responsible for training, entering and underwriting U.S. Teams in the Olympic Games. Unlike the National Olympic Committees of many other countries, the USOC does not rely on federal funding to support all of its efforts. Therefore, in order to fulfill our responsibilities without the need for federal funding, (oho they just take millions from the likes of Dow Chemical) Congress granted the USOC the exclusive right to use and control the commercial use of the word OLYMPIC (oh my what happens to Olympia, WA?  Mount Olympus? etc) a and any simulation or combination thereof in the United States, as well as the OLYMPIC SYMBOL. See the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, 36 U.S.C. §220501 et seq. (the "Act"). (A copy of the relevant portion of the Act is enclosed for your convenience.) The Act prohibits the unauthorized use of the Olympic Symbol or the mark OLYMPIC and derivations thereof for any commercial purpose or for any competition, such as the one organized through your website. See 36 U.S.C. §220506(c). The USOC primarily relies on legitimate sponsorship fees and licensing revenues to support U.S. Olympic athletes and finance this country's participation in the Olympic Games. Other companies, like Nike and Ralph Lauren, have paid substantial sums for the right to use Olympic-related marks, and through their sponsorships support the U.S. Olympic Team. Therefore, it is important that we restrict the use of Olympic marks and protect the rights of companies who financially support Team USA.
In addition to the protections of the Act discussed above, the USOC also owns numerous trademark registration that include the mark OLYMPIC. These marks therefore are protected under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. §1051 et seq. Thus,'s unauthorized use of the mark OLYMPIC or derivations thereof, such as RAVELYMPICS, may constitute trademark infringement, unfair competition and dilution of our famous trademarks.
The USOC would like to settle this matter on an amicable basis. However, we must request the following actions be taken.
1. Changing the name of the event, the "Ravelympics."; The athletes of Team USA have usually spent the better part of their entire lives training for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them. For many, the Olympics represent the pinnacle of their sporting career. Over more than a century, the Olympic Games have brought athletes around the world together to compete in an event that has come to mean much more than just a competition between the world's best athletes. The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.  (but it seems the lawyers don't have to respect anyone - see below)
The USOC is responsible for preserving the Olympic Movement and its ideals within the United States. Part of that responsibility is to ensure that Olympic trademarks, imagery and terminology are protected and given the appropriate respect. We believe using the name "Ravelympics" for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country's finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.  
It looks as if this is the third time that the Ravelympics have been organized, each coinciding with an Olympic year (2008, 2010, and 2012). The name Ravelympics is clearly derived from the terms "Ravelry" (the name of your website) and OLYMPICS, making RAVELYMPICS a simulation of the mark OLYMPIC tending to falsely suggest a connection to the Olympic Movement. Thus, the use of RAVELYMPICS is prohibited by the Act. Knowing this, we are sure that you can appreciate the need for you to re-name the event, to something like the Ravelry Games.  (No one on Ravelry thinks we are connected and we are 2 million strong.)
1. Removal of Olympic Symbols in patterns, projects, etc. As stated before, the USOC receives no funding from the government to support this country's Olympic athletes. The USOC relies upon official licensing and sponsorship fees to raise the funds necessary to fulfill its mission. Therefore, the USOC reserves use of Olympic terminology and trademarks to our official sponsors, suppliers and licensees. The patterns and projects featuring the Olympic Symbol on's website are not licensed and therefore unauthorized. The USOC respectfully asks that all such patterns and projects be removed from your site.
For your convenience, we have listed some of the patterns featuring Olympic trademarks. However, this list should be viewed as illustrative rather than exhaustive. The USOC requests that all patterns involving Olympic trademarks be removed from the website. We further request that you rename various patterns that may not feature Olympic trademarks in the design but improperly use Olympic in the pattern name. (However since Ravelry does not own these patterns, they cannot be forced to do that.)\
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. We would appreciate a written reply to this letter by no later than June 19, 2012. If you would like to discuss this matter directly, please feel free to contact me at the number above, or you may reach my colleague, Carol Gross.
Kindest Regards,
Brett Hirsch
Law Clerk
Office of the General Counsel
United States Olympic Committee
1 Olympic Plaza
Colorado Springs, CO 80909

The forum threads on Ravelry are now close to 100 pages long of irate thoughts, and disappointment.

"wow. last time i participated in the Ravelympics i was more interested in the actual Olympics than i had been previously."

"I agree that they are legally required to go through this to defend their trademark, but saying that the Ravelympics denigrates the Olympic athletes… was that necessary?"

"I’m wondering if they’ve gone after the Mom and Pop business in my neighbourhood called Olympic Laundromat. I assume the owners called it Olympic because they’re from Olympia, Greece. Maybe they’re safe because we’re in Canada? Owning a word -- a word that existed long before the Committee existed -- it boggles the mind."

"The word olympics is from the ancient Greek games. Every country uses it to sponsor their own games. Why in particular would Ravelry be: 1. infringing on a name used for centuries and 2. abuse an imagined copyright for a word used by every country in the games not just America.
I feel that this item should be sent to David Letterman to mock. Its just another example of a bureaucrat using our Tax dollars to attempt to justify still having a job."

The Olympic Committee can be contacted at this address;
This is the letter I sent this morning.
Dear Mr. Hirsch & the USOC Legal Team,
I am writing to you regarding your recent Cease and Desist letter to Mr Forbes at regarding their use of the term “Ravelympics” for a knitting, crocheting, weaving and fiber spinning event planned to coincide with the 2012 Olympic games in London. I understand that as the holder of the Olympic copyright in the United States, requesting that Ravelry remove patterns that use the Olympic name and trademarked rings symbols without proper permission is certainly within your purview and I am not taking issue with that section of the letter.  Although Ravelry does not own nor receive any money from those patterns.
What I do take issue with is your assertion that “using the name ‘Ravelympics’ for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, (and why did you choose those out of all the others?) tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.” 
The Ravelympics are designed to encourage viewing of the Olympic Games. Many of Ravelry’s two million INTERNATIONAL members are avid supporters of their respective country’s teams and were very enthusiastic about participating in treasured, historic and culturally important crafts while at the same time cheering on athletes and watching officially licensed broadcasts. However, after reading your condescending, rude, poorly worded and frightfully misguided letter, many of us find ourselves to be significantly less enthusiastic about the Olympic Games, which is rather unfortunate for all.  Many of us only watched the Olympics because we were involved in the redacted name and wouldn't otherwise.  So you see you are excising of a lot of potential viewers and purchasers with your mean spirited thinking.
To imply that physical prowess and feats of strength are somehow more valuable than practicing a craft is offensive and small minded. Not all of us can rise to the athletic level of the competing athletes, and that is why we enjoy watching them every four years. Your assertion that my knitting a sweater or a pair of socks while at the same time enjoying the Games is tantamount to reversing the Olympics' principles. Ravelry makes no money from its members participating in our fun, and finished items are not judged or scored. The entire event is purely designed to further enthusiasm and support for the Olympics while enjoying a fun, useful and skilled craft.
By now you have no doubt seen or heard of some of the thousands of Facebook posts, emails, Tweets, and blog postings about your C&D letter. The USOC is being rightfully exposed as an overly litigious money grubbing bully. If anything, your unfortunately dismissive attitude towards fiber artists and crafters is more of a “denigration of the true nature of the Olympic Games” than anything else. I may not be boycotting the Olympic Games (haven't yet decided that and it will be based on your response to our outrage) but I will be boycotting Olympic sponsors. I plan to vote with my wallet until you develop a sense of reason and perspective and realize that events such as the Ravelympics only bring positive publicity and increased support for the Olympic Games and Team USA.
Susan Sarabasha

We are posting on the facebook pages of the Olympics plus tweeting and wonder when they will go after the hundreds of other fun things people have co-opted the phrase 'lympics" to use with their events?

And we are going viral --

Knitters Outraged After U.S. Olympic Committee Squashes Knitting Olympics—and Disses Knitters

*BTW Camel Privy is an anagram for Ravelympics.

1 comment:

Linda said...

Just proves how ridiculous this government has become!! I read somewhere recently (wish I could remember where and who) that some corporation also has a patent on the color purple. No joke. No one else can legally use the word "purple" in a description.

Some years ago my mentally challenged, physically disabled daughter was a participant in "Special Olympics", for about 4 years. Now these brave, determined people surely cannot be described as having great prowess and tremendous feats of strength. But they certainly proved their determination and pride. I wonder what the USOC thinks of them!!