More Cease-And-Desist-Happy Lawyers

from the going-too-far dept

These days it seems that corporate lawyers a pretty damn quick about pulling out their trusted “cease-and-desist” letters for just about anything – even if no laws have actually been violated. Wired News has two such stories this morning. First, comes the news that Miramax is upset about a site that reviews Kung Fu movies. They accuse him of selling a movie that they own the rights to. The movie was originally released in Asia in 2002, but will come to the US next year. The problem is that the guy who runs the site doesn’t sell any movies. He does link to a site that does sell movies, but that site stopped selling the movie in question once Miramax obtained the rights to it. No matter to Miramax. When confronted with this info, they defended the action, saying that they needed to make “it more difficult for people to purchase these films.” That may be what the lawyers think, but it might not make the most business sense. First of all, the type of people who will go out of their way to buy such a movie from a foreign distributor are clearly big fans, and are the most likely people to go out and see the movie on the big screen when it’s released here. Now, all Miramax has done is piss off the biggest fans of the movie they’re about to release. Second, there’s nothing illegal about linking to a perfectly legal site. Miramax is simply using their lawyers to bully someone who has done nothing wrong (and, in fact, who is trying to help publicize their movies). What Miramax considers “protecting their intellectual property” certainly appears to be shooting themselves in the foot from this angle. Meanwhile, the US Olympic Committee is hitting back against anyone who dares to use the word “Olympics” to describe some sort of competition. Again, this is going past the basic purpose of trademark law – which is to make sure consumers of a product (or event) aren’t confused to believe it’s from another company (or organization). In this case, the folks behind the “robolympics” think it’s fairly unlikely that anyone is going to confuse their event with the international athletic competitions held every few years. In fact, they point out that the Olympic trademark only covers athletic events – and since their event involves robots, it’s not an athletic event.

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Comments on “More Cease-And-Desist-Happy Lawyers”

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Bryan Price says:

Too damn lazy to look it up right now...

but IIRC, Congress passed an act that basically protects the Olympic trademark unconditionally. When the Olympics came to Atlanta, there was a big to do about a restaruant with the name Olympic in it, that had been around for something like 100 years. Fscking flu is trying to get ahold of me it seems, so I think I’ll go take a nap now… Zzzzzzzzz.

Doug says:

Maybe they should read the law...

they point out that the Olympic trademark only covers athletic events – and since their event involves robots, it’s not an athletic event.

Well, they can try to point that out, but maybe they should try reading the law first.

… for the purpose of trade, to induce the sale of any goods or services, or to promote any theatrical exhibition, athletic performance, or competition…
— 36 USC 380 (a)

That part of the law clearly covers any kind of competition.

And then there is 36 USC 380 (c), which reserves to USOC all uses of the term “Olympic” (and some other terms and symbols) with no restriction on context.

The protection granted to the USOC?s use of the Olympic words and symbols differs from the normal trademark protection in two respects: the USOC need not prove that a contested use is likely to cause confusion, and an unauthorized user of the word does not have available the normal statutory defenses.
— U.S. Supreme Court, San Francisco Arts & Athletics, Inc. v. United States Olympic Comm. (1987)

In 1998, the USOC gained some additional protected words, including Pan-American.

LittleW0lf says:

Re: Maybe they should read the law...

Well, they can try to point that out, but maybe they should try reading the law first.

Absolutely agree, but 36 USC 308 is no longer valid, it is now 36 USC 220506, which can be found at [US Code at].

The snafu here though is that according to 36 USC 220506 (3), the use of the word “olympic” to identify a business or goods or services is permitted by this section where (A) such use is not combined with any of the intellectual properties referenced in subsections (a) or (c) of this section (referenced above), and (B) it is evident from the circumstances that such use of the word “olympic” refers to the naturally occurring mountains or geographical region of the same name that were named prior to February 6th, 1988, and not to the corporation or any Olympic activity; and (C) such businesses, goods, or services 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.

So if they move to Washington, west of the Cascade Mountains, name the robolympics after the mountain, and don’t sell anything outside of that area, they could get around all this.

I really do dispise government owned corporations who use my taxes to push their IP restrictions down my throat. Whether or not my taxes actually go to USOC, it obviously took my tax money to get this law in place. And the fact that the USOC has been investigated several times for fraud/bribe activity (with findings against several members of the USOC), it really pisses me off the hypocracy of “you must follow our laws even when your organization’s ‘goods’ have nothing to do with ours, and it is quite obvious to anyone with an IQ above 30 that you aren’t part of our organization, but we don’t have to follow yours when it comes to embezzlement, fraud, and bribary.”

Anonymous Coward says:


Should we also give them control of the word “olympus” because its similiar…and perhaps because the guy running the system thinks hes Zeus?

Oh BTW Olympic comittee for Bejing..nice going on having the evil murdering chinese government turf out 300,000 chinese families to make way for the new stadiums etc….and I we should just all forget about the 3,000 people that refused to move and were ‘relocated’ (to mass graves)….(after no doubt being checked to see which of their juicy organs were compatible with the chinese party rulers)………

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