US Olympic Committee Forces 30 Year Old Philidelphia Gyro Restaraunt To Change Its Name

from the its-all-Greek-to-me dept

Ah, the Olympics. The spirit of cooperation. Of athletic competition. Of the essence of global feel-good-ness, where all the Olympic committees of the world come together to put on a spectacle made of the most brilliant athletes in the world.

Oh, and they also like to stifle links to critical pieces (do we have your attention, boys?), by banning their fans from sharing their experiences via social media, and threatening ICANN for refusing to block Olympic-related terms. And, now, Steve M shares a story from the Philadelphia Daily News about how the United States Olympic Committee has won a 30 year battle they didn’t know they were fighting with a gyro shop.

“Three decades after it burst from the starting block, the Greek eatery Olympic Gyro has received a cease-and-desist email from the USOC, the nonprofit corporation responsible for training and funding U.S. teams. The June 7 notice demanded deletion of the word “Olympic” from the food shop’s title, claiming copyright of the word under a 1978 law.”

This legislative insanity, which I assume is entitled “The USOC Can Do Whatever It Wants Because Olympics Act Of 1978”, basically grants the USOC sole usership of the word “Olympic” in the United States, amongst other travesties. They issued a heartfelt email in response to this issue:

“The USOC communications department declined to discuss the matter with the Daily News. But in its email, the organization emphasized the need to “protect the rights of companies who financially support the U.S. Olympic Team,” such as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola.”

Yup, the USOC asserted that it needs to protect the rights of their sponsors (which means they’re protecting themselves, by the way) from these no-good gyro shop owners who have apparently been harming McDonald’s and Coca-Cola for the past thirty damned years, but with some kind of stealth cloaking device that keeps any such harm from being realized.

Oh, and just for fun, let’s look at a few names of the governors of the organizations involved in this story. The USOC is headed up by Larry Probst (not Greek). Coca-Cola is run by Muhtar Kent (not Greek). McDonalds’ CEO is James Skinner (not Greek). And the gyro stand formely known as Olympic Gyro’s owner is Athens Voulgaridis (more than slightly Greek). The irony of this was apparently not lost on Voulgaridis:

“It’s been a part of my life as long as I can remember,” Voulgaridis said Tuesday. “We’re very Greek Orthodox, we go back [to Greece] often. For them to take something that is Greek and make it theirs for money is frustrating.”

But he also states that he isn’t going to fight the government. In total, the name change will cost his business $6000 or so, since he has to change both signage and employee uniforms. He contacted the USOC to see if they would help out with those costs, but they declined, explaining that money is valuable and they didn’t want to spend any.

The same Daily News article also mentions that the USOC went after a knitting group named Ravelry that was organizing something of a knitting olympics competition to coincide with The Games:

“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,” the letter from USOC said. “In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.”

Yes, you read that correctly. Knitting competitions denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. Which I happen to agree with, assuming that this “true nature” they’re talking about revolves around screwing with people for no good reason.

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Companies: olympic gyro, usoc

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Comments on “US Olympic Committee Forces 30 Year Old Philidelphia Gyro Restaraunt To Change Its Name”

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velox says:

Re: Disgusting

A few weeks ago Seth Godin had something to say about the Olympic committees’ ongoing attempts to scrub every single unlicensed use of the word Olympic from the language. He said they have “completely missed the point of what a brand is. It’s not a word.
It’s a set of expectations.”

The USOC and the IOC apparently believe that this makes their brand more valuable, but going after knitters and gyro eateries doesn’t keep people from being confused about the Olympic brand. It also doesn’t bring them more money, but rather costs them money because the targets of their expensive lawyers aren’t going to be able to pay to keep the word “Olympic”.
What it does do is build their reputation… as bullies, and creates a general disrespect for the organizations. It should be obvious that engendering disrespect is not favorable to the long-term maintenance of their brand and its value.

One Nemesis (profile) says:

Re: What about the Olympic Mountains?

It seems the ?Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act? ( could come into play here.
Also see this 2010 Seattle Times Article ?Few tears shed here over USOC’s “ambush marketing ” woes? (
However, A picture of their neon sign shows the 5 Olympic rings, which is a big no-no.

anon says:

olympics what

I don’t really watch the olympics, firstly because most of the fun is on sky satellite tv and secondly because of the stories i heard about them not only here but elsewhere in the press, i think it is going to get to the point where they are going to have to pay countries to host the games if they are not going to allow each country to benefit from the games. i,e using the olympic symbol . this i not supposed to be a for profit organization, this is supposed to be an inspiration to people.

Anonymous Coward says:

i think this and other Olympic ‘lock ups’ are the tragedy. these are the things that degrade the Games and what they are supposed to stand for. but, as with almost everything today, nothing is more important than copyright and the ability to screw people for the slightest of reasons. why do various governments not put a stop to it? it only makes them look as big arse holes as the committees concerned

Anonymous Coward says:

I always hated the olympics for the same reason I hate all sports: I don’t see the point of hero-worship when the “heroes” are famed solely for their ability to twirl on a mat, or klick a piece of inflated cow-skin, or to run (which most people compete in around the age of three). It’s not exactly brain surgery, and I think it’s ridiculous that I can’t seem to have a drink during 4 weeks of summer without a f-ing big screen TV disturbing my peaceful afternoon at the bar, because sports apparently is more important than the Higgs Boson (It’s NOT, by the way.)

It’s nice to have more fuel to throw on my bonfire of sports. Sports is rapidly degrading into a bigger copyright nightmare than then music industry and it’s good to have more reasons to fuel the hatred I harbor. I swear, they are becoming as litigious as Disney.

Dave (profile) says:

Re: Hero-worship

I still watch sports — soccer and basketball, mostly — but I don’t view athletes as heroes so much as entertainers. Modern games are just another form of entertainment, like movies and TV. The catch is that anyone can play these games, and most of the people who watch HAVE played them in some form or another. So watching the best of the best play will appeal to anyone who enjoys the game in general.

(This might also explain why poker on TV got hot for a while, or why some smaller networks show video game competitions. We’re not so concerned with athletic achievement as we are with achievement within a particular game. Kevin Durant can’t outrun Usain Bolt, but he’ll attract a hell of a lot more eyeballs this summer.)

I suppose the counter to this is that anyone could make a movie, too, but making a game that anyone can play and that can produce its own moments of drama on both personal and global scales? That’ll last a lot longer than your DVD collection. And that’s part of the reason why sports still draw me in.

Anonymous Coward says:

When I was stationed at the Navy Yard in South Philly back in 78, 79, 80. I had the great fortune to become introduced to the Gyro. It wasn’t this restaurant, but another in Center City.

All I can think of is that this is BS. With one exception the Olympic Gyro is using the Olympic rings in it’s logo.

Using the fool in a hurry test, I would never think that the US Olympic Cmte. is part of this food service venture.

Anonymous Coward says:

The owner of the Gyro shop should simply not change his name.

People just need to start standing up for themselves.

We should help him engage in whatever legal action is necessary to challenge the injunction the USOC has filed. If that fails we should show him how to file an appeal.

I realize that people can’t afford legal fees (or time), and in the end, corporations like McDonald’s will likely win with superior resources, but we need to start helping people fight for themselves.

We need to start simply saying, “No.”

Robert (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Now THAT is a good idea.

That would show the USOC and IOC that people don’t give a shit about their corporate ass-kissing and maybe even the corps who support the Ohlimpicks will wake up to the will of the people.

Though most likely the USOC will sue the restaurant for violating a “law” and then sue those who supported via Kickstarter for being accomplices.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, right. For 30 years people in Philly have been watching ads for the Olympic Games, thinking only of the Olympic Gyro restaurant, and running there to eat. Philly must be a city full of fatties then. Oh… wait… you might have a point there. Never mind.

Seriously, you must be a moron in a hurry, or a lawyer.

Rapnel (profile) says:


The true “nature” of the OLYMPICS!?

Hey USOC – you and your God Damned *OLYMPIC* committees are fucking cunts. Hairy, mean, grizzly bear snatch.

You and your McDONALDS and COCA-COLA racket can suck a javelin.

Self-serving twats. Yet another protectionist racket that degrades and abuses the contributions of peoples to society. A society that happens to encompass the entire planet.

The OLYMPICS of corporate controlling twattery – awesome.

This is what disturbs me about the “rule of law” – the game is law – and it’s continuously being rigged. Dead End.

Andrew (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I believe DOJ is currently drawing up an extradition request…

In fact the US should be careful about how far it pushes this as it could really come back to bite it.

– Hephaistos invented metal tools (e.g. ploughshares) to increase agricultural efficiency.

– Ares found these metal tools could be turned into swords and other weapons of war.

– Dice were invented by Palamedes.

– Palamedeas also invented 11 (or possibly 16) letters of the alphabet.

– Hermes invented the 3 stringed Lyre, and Apollo may have added another 4 strings to it. It’s hard to argue that harps, pianos and many other instruments are not derivative of this.


The US should live up to its international obligations and stop stealing the IP of these hardworking ancient Greeks and Greek gods. It should pay compensation for years – centuries – of blatant abuse and lawlessness (maybe $150,000 per infraction?). (Which may even solve the Greek debt crisis…)

Violated (profile) says:


It is always nice [sic] to see the United States always try to claim ownership of everything. Try ancient Greece of about 776BC in Olympia and done for many years since to honour Zeus.

As to the words then try (Ancient Greek: τὰ Ὀλύμπια ? ta Olympia), (Modern Greek: Ὀλυμπιακοὶ Ἀγῶνες [Katharevousa], Ολυμπιακοί Αγώνες [Dimotiki] ? Olympiakoi Agones)

The modern Olympics may own the rings but as to the word they should go and run and jump. I am sure Greece will have issues with the US trying to claim rights to their land and to their history.

Anonymous Coward says:

What is this Olympic Gyro restaurant you keep talking about? I’ve not heard of this Olympic Gyro restaurant before. Surely the Olympic Gyro restaurant should be left alone as no one will confuse Olympic Gyro restaurant with the other summer games.

Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

In Vancouver, “Olympic Pizza” managed to get the Vancouver Olympic Committee to back down on getting them to change their name. They even had the Olympic logo of interlocked circles on their sign. This was for the 2010 Winter games, I believe the store was opened in the 90s.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why haven’t they harassed the large companies infringing on the publicity rights of a historic competition?,_South_Australia
After all, the company that operates it has plenty of money to become the official energy supplier?
The official renewable energy supplier?
The official non-drug related enhancement supplier?
The official photon based enhancement supplier?
Or perhaps the official Dam-the-opponents supplier.
Alternatively, this isn’t infringement in Australia because uranium miners do not compete with an advertising company based in another country?
[Perhaps someone can shed light on the Sydney 2000 Olympics and why this is different?]

JustMe (profile) says:

Hey USOC! Betcha I can

Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant
Olympic Gyro restaurant

I can also say this – the USOC is a bunch of Dirty rotten rabbit-raping rectal rogues?

Anonymous Coward says:

best response?

I understand why it isn’t worth his while, but I wish Athens would refuse. What is the USOC going to do? Sue him? We’ve seen how well that worked for the record companies. The more pressure they try to apply to this guy, the worse they look.

That said, it seems to me that the best response among readers is to complain directly to the sponsors. While the USOC clearly doesn’t mind being an asshole (hey, corporations are people too!), Coke, Mickey D’s and the others have a public image to maintain.

Gryzor (profile) says:

What about Olympia...

If it’s got the rings in its logo it’s somewhat problematic, but I’m waiting for the day that the World OC or what-it’s-called descents in Greece and tried to shut down all the places that use “olympic” in their names. You see, the Olympics did get their name, after all, after a small place called Olympia. “Olympic” doesn’t automatically mean “olympic games”!

Anonymous Coward says:

I love it when people don’t bother to click on links and see images.

The problem arose from the Olympic Gyro using the trademarked and heavily protected logo of 5 rings in its neatly designed serving area. Had it not done such a foolish thing, it would have been spared. There are plenty of “Olympic+something” businesses in the US and worldwide, but they don’t use the Olympic logo.

Imagine calling your restaurant Nike Foods (nike = victory in Greek) AND using the swoosh of the famous shoe maker.

Also, a C&D is not enforceable, the gyro place complied in order to avoid a lawsuit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

In Vancouver, “Olympic Pizza” managed to get the Vancouver Olympic Committee to back down on their threats of lawsuits to get them to remove Olympic from their name. The store even had the Olympic logo of interlocked circles on their sign. This was for the 2010 Winter games.

But then again, this happened in Canada not the US. =P

Anonymous Coward says:

@Dark Helmet – On the contrary. If you are a member of the International Olympic Committee walking into the gyro joint, you see the rings right in your face. That’s the reason the joint got served; a combined mark infringement for the rings, with the word ‘Olympic’. The latter is not a problem, just visit Olympic dot com.

Anonymous Coward says:

@John – Why not go all out, once you’ve discovered that your tm is being violated? They could have asked for money as well. The C&D is a serving, a warning if you may. The gyro joint did not have to comply, but they knew they had no case since they used both the rings and the Olympic term.

Moral of the story: consult an IP attorney whey planning to name a business.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Considering the vast amounts of overlap and the fact that even IP holders themselves cannot be trusted over what constitutes as fair hiring an attorney is not as reliable as you seem to be thinking. You’re assuming that the IP attorney’s research is definitely sufficient to avoid such issues. Plus, you’re also assuming people have the money to spend on IP attorneys every time they have a business or are attempting to come up with a new product.

Seriously...... says:

Didnt believe it till i looked

(C) such business, 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.

I looked up the USC just to check as i am from the Olympic peninsula of Washington state and was appalled to find they specifically mention my area. Its ok if I use the name Olympic in my business as long as it doesn’t go outside of that region and I don’t become famous. Man i thought this was America but that is a farce, America died long ago.

mudlock (profile) says:

Needs to be 62 years old or in western Washington

Everyone claiming that “Olympia, Washington is next” hasn’t read the law; it has exceptions:

“(d) Pre-Existing and Geographic Reference Rights.?
(1) A person who actually used the emblem described in subsection (a)(3) of this section, or the words or any combination of the words described in subsection (a)(4) of this section, for any lawful purpose before September 21, 1950, is not prohibited by this section from continuing the lawful use for the same purpose and for the same goods or services.
(2) A person who actually used, or whose assignor actually used, the words or any combination of the words described in subsection (a)(4) of this section, or a trademark, trade name, sign, symbol, or insignia described in subsection (c)(4) of this section, for any lawful purpose before September 21, 1950, is not prohibited by this section from continuing the lawful use for the same purpose and for the same goods or services.
(3) 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 subsection (a) or (c) of this section;
(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 6, 1998, and not to the corporation or any Olympic activity; and
(C) such business, 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.”

If the restaurant were in western Washington, or if it had been founded in or before 1950, they’d be fine.

This law is dumb, but it not so dumb as to miss the obviously super-dumb possibilities.

hmm (profile) says:


I don’t understand why ANYONE is bothered about the Olympics.

Crappy sponsorship, threats to arrest anyone wearing the wrong clothing

and worst of all, the entire thing is fake and the medals have been pre-assigned based on upcoming trade agreements.

Hell, the US at one point even tried to offer medals to those countries that would support ACTA even though they aren’t hosting the damn things!

Anonymous Coward says:

This remind me of the stink when Warner Brothers tried to shut down production of the Marx Brothers’ “A Night in Casablanca” because it sounded like their classic “Casablanca.” Groucho responded in hilarious style wanting to know if it was okay to use the word ‘brothers’ in their Marx Brothers act and congratulating Warners for having been there x thousand years earlier for the founding of the city of Casablanca..

A. Nnoyed (profile) says:

Same old Olympic Committee abuse.

This is nothing new. I still remember that during the Olympic games in Atlanta in 1986 the Olympic committee sued a restaurant named the Olympic something to force them to change their name. The restaurant had been in business for I believe longer than the one in Philadelphia and the name was registered by owner as a trademark. The problem was that like the victims of copyright trolls the restaurant owner could not afford the cost to defend the good name of his restaurant. The restaurant owner should have sued the Olympic Committee and demanded that they change their name. Remember the financially strong can always beat up the financially weak.

G Boyer says:

Olympic Committee

I’m just a little Pi$$ed off about this, I got to looking around on the Internet and there a lot of placed that have Olympic in their company title. Why single this guy out? There are Olympic Gyro eating places all over the United States. There also is the “Olympic National Park” in Washington State. I just can not understand why the “Committee” isn’t going after them as well, but this is how “Bullies” do things they go after the weakest!

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