USOC Demands That Company Take Down Twitter Posts Of Olympic Athlete It Sponsors

from the facepalm dept

All I have to do is say that this is a story that involves the Olympics and you probably already know exactly what kind of story this is going to be. That's because we here at Techdirt have posts going back years that detail how the IOC and the USOC go about bullying, threatening, berating and downright pestering anyone it can over even the slightest of intellectual property concerns. The fact that these international games come around every two years now, instead of four, only means this bullying occurs now in near perpetuity instead of at a pace of a half-a-decade staccato.

So, with the Rio Olympics right around the zika-infested, super-bacteria-in-the-water corner, it's time to start relaying the most predictable news possible: the USOC are still bullying people over laughably slight trademark concerns. Though I will credit the USOC this much: they're finding new and inventive ways to come off as petty and money-grubbing as possible. The link above details the USOC's demands that Oiselle, an athletic apparel company that sponsors Olympic athlete Kate Grace, take down the following Instagram posts.


The USOC said these posts were trademark violations and that Oiselle was using them to confuse the public into thinking it was sponsoring the Olympics. Now, Kate Grace is sponsored as an athlete by Oiselle. The posts above appear to be a runner's sponsor alerting its followers at the accomplishment of one of its athletes. You know, exactly the kind of thing that a corporate sponsor should be expected to do. So, are you confused as to what any of the above has to do with the USOC's claim that Oiselle is trying to trade off of the trademarks of the Olympics?

Sally Bergesen, CEO of Oiselle, told the Orange County Register that she received an email from the U.S. Olympic Committee informing her that the posts violated USOC trademark guidelines, requesting that Oiselle to take down all images of Grace and other Oiselle athletes competing at the Trials. The USOC official, Carol Gross, asked that Oiselle stop all “Olympic-related advertising” and take down images by “close of business” Wednesday, July 6.

“This is about USOC’s intellectual property, ownership of the terms Rio, Road To Rio, the rings—all of the branding they use,” Bergesen said by phone. “By using the caption ‘She’s heading to Rio’ and showing the branding [#RoadToRio, Olympic rings] on her bib, which is ironed onto her Oiselle top, they’re saying it’s akin to creating advertising, that we’re making it look like we’re part of Team USA and doing Olympic advertising. They’re saying that our reporting is advertising; we differ with that.”

Yes, because the USOC has managed to get all kinds of generic trademarks on words and locations that have no business being trademarked at all, and because the athlete was wearing a bib while competing that showed some valid IOC trademarks, suddenly the image and caption can't be put on social media. Does anyone actually look at that picture and caption and immediately conclude that Oiselle is an Olympic sponsor? Even the hashtags, a brand new insane place for people to fight over trademark concerns, don't conjure up an association with the olympics.

But here's where we can see the USOC's intentions laid bare. Keep in mind that Kate Grace is sponsored by Oiselle, just not for the Olympics. Instead, she's a sponsored athlete for all of her non-Olympic competition and training. Meaning that Oiselle is part of what got Kate Grace to the Olympics, but now that company can't even tweet out a picture of her success.

Bergesen says she understands the USOC’s position with regard to maintaining the value of trademarks, but takes issue with the fact that the neither the USOC nor its major corporate sponsors support athletes’ training, nor pay athletes for competing at the Olympics, but make vast sums from the event. “It comes down to how the money is spent,” she said. “I would be somewhat okay [with non-USOC rmarketing restrictions] if some of the money were getting to athletes. But the reality is, if it were not for small private entities who actually support athletes, you’d have a beautifully branded stadium with no athletes in it.”

Filled with all the branding in the world and nobody there to take pictures of it all and tweet them out, because the athletes are actually supported by the very people unable to congratulate them on social media. Gold medal for asshole-ery goes to the USOC.


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  • icon
    DB (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 2:27pm

    "Rio" is trademarked?

    It appears that "Rio 2016" is trademarked, along with other phrases. But claiming that "Rio" (or "RIO") is trademarked looks more like a bluff.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    john Katos (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 2:58pm

    Should we start calling them the ... "Big Games"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2016 @ 3:02pm

      Re:

      I'll call it the Five Ring Circus. They've got the clown act down to a science.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2016 @ 3:10pm

      Re:

      I'm going to call "that event I don't give a shit about and won't be watching"

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        TasMot (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 4:20pm

        Re: Re:

        Been There, Doing That. I can't turn the channel away fast enough. So, I won't be watching RIO at all with or without the 2016.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Ninja (profile), 13 Jul 2016 @ 4:46am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Aw, come on, and lose the opportunity of seeing the chaos whit athletes getting flesh-eating infections and infra-structure failures? Of course you won't be seeing that in the mainstream media.

          I'm currently very ashamed of my country. These games must be by far the most corrupt ever. Remember FIFA got pwned after the games in Brazil. I'm hoping the same happens after the "event I don't give a shit about".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 3:48pm

      Or just The Games and open source it.

      Run it as a giant non-profit intended to be a celebration of human endeavor, rather than capital gains.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 13 Jul 2016 @ 5:19am

        Re: Or just The Games and open source it.

        News flash: the Soviet Union collapsed. Human endeavors not registering as capital gains are no cause for celebration.

        At any rate: "giant", "non-profit", "principled": targetting two out of three is already ambitious.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 13 Jul 2016 @ 4:17am

      Re:

      How about 'The Event That Shall Not Be Named'?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2016 @ 2:58pm

    Trademarks should bite both ways

    From: Oiselle
    To: USOC

    It came to our attention that your are suggesting endorsement of the Olympic Games by Oiselle, and as of now we'll allow it.

    We won't ask you to stop all Oiselle-related advertising.

    Have a nice day,
    Sally

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PlagueSD (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 3:00pm

    Between the USOC's antics around trademark and NBC's massive fail in broadcasting the 2012 Olympic games (who the hell TAPE DELAYS live events???) I've pretty much lost all interest in the Olympics at this point.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Grey (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 3:19pm

    Not watching even a highlight on a non-olympic channel this year.

    Unless they add corpse-fishing to the events... Gold medal goes to whomever gets the largest torso out of the bay.

    Bonus points if the limbs match the torso.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      TRX (profile), 13 Jul 2016 @ 8:07am

      Re:

      I'm still good with PJ O'Rourke's proposal to add some modern style competition. He proposed driving a TSD rally through Los Angeles during rush hour. I'm more in favor of "no-wing sprint cars on methanol."

      The Olympics ceased to be about sports a long time ago. It's just a giant money machine using athletes to generate profit. And don't forget, the taxpayers of the host cities usually wind up taking it right in the wallet, too.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Steve Zissou (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 3:21pm

    "but takes issue with the fact that the neither the USOC nor its major corporate sponsors support athletes’ training, nor pay athletes for competing at the Olympics, but make vast sums from the event."

    So the Olympics is kind of like the record labels of the sports world? They take all of the money for themselves and give nothing back? Fun.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2016 @ 10:25am

      Re:

      "So the Olympics is kind of like the record labels of the sports world? They take all of the money for themselves and give nothing back? Fun."

      Compared to the Olympics the record labels are angels. At least they give 1-5% (guess) to the artists, the Olympics seem to keep 100% of the money.

      You know something is wrong when record labels seem charitable.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 3:23pm

    It is a pity its going to take having top level athletes infected with a virus, exposed to super bugs, shot at, possibly murdered or ransomed for people to wonder if perhaps the Olympics are done.

    I've seen the list of next host cities dropping out due to the demands of the IOC people.

    Its corrupt, unchecked, and a huge waste of resources for host countries. The athletes often get next to no help from the USOC beyond a bag of wear this branded stuff or we'll sue.

    Can we just say fuck it and maybe see if we can turn Eurovision into a world wide event?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rapnel (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 3:23pm

    I regret that I do not have enough bad words to say.

    An entire field of Olympic™ winners it's crystal clear who the losers are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Brian Antoine, 12 Jul 2016 @ 3:23pm

    "But the reality is, if it were not for small private entities who actually support athletes, you’d have a beautifully branded stadium with no athletes in it."

    Which is exactly what should happen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    scotts13 (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 3:35pm

    I didn't think it was possible for me to care less about the Olympics... but now I see I was wrong. Let's ignore the IOC and USOC - literally. Don't answer their calls, return their letters unopened. Go run and swim and play somewhere else. Call it the Orympics.

    Of course, whoever organizes THAT will eventually become evil and corrupt, but we'll have a respit for a few years.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 3:44pm

    I'd say you guys have ruined me for the Olympics

    But credit where it's due, the USOC did that, and I'd rather be ruined. Pretty much the Olympics being a factor in bankrupting Greece did that.

    Still I've heard about all sorts of awful risks of the Olympics at Brazil this year. I hope the athletes get home safe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Avatar28 (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 4:27pm

    minor edits

    The Olympic logo isn't more than a few pixels. Blur them out, no one will really notice. Say she's on the way to Rio de Janerio. You can't trademark the proper place name in nominative usage.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TasMot (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 4:28pm

    Oiselle should send the IOC and USOC a bill!

    I mean, after all, they are providing advertising for the Rio Olympic games aren't they?

    Or, even better, if the problem is that there is a tiny little Olympic symbol, just blur it into unrecognizability and leave the picture up that way. Take out the RIO and change it to she is going to Rio de Janeiro for an event, and leave it at that. OR, has IOC now trademarked the name of the city and nobody (including the residents) can use the name of the city except in officially sanctioned IOC activities?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 5:36pm

    lie enough and threaten to sue and most people will back down rather than risk that the accusations are based on nothing, opposed to spending millions of dollars defending yourself against a frivilous lawsuit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2016 @ 9:17pm

    Did I hear that right? That the USOC has a trademark on "Rio"? Uh, names of states and countries cannot, by definition of the law, be copyrighted nor trademarked. :rotfl:

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JustShutUpAndObey, 12 Jul 2016 @ 9:28pm

    Road to Rio - 1947

    I think Columbia Pictures has a prior trademark interest in the "Road to Rio" phrase. USOC has apparently forgotten about Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_to_Rio

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MadAsASnake (profile), 13 Jul 2016 @ 1:13am

    The IOC is making the whole Olympics so poisonous to host that they already have trouble getting hosts for the Winter one. Recall that the last one in London resulted in Londoners not being able to use their own roads - all for corporate profit - won't be long and they'll be having trouble finding hosts for the summer ones too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2016 @ 2:06am

    I'm wondring if anyone can contest the olympic trademarks. 2500 years of previous art should do, I think.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Go5 (profile), 13 Jul 2016 @ 6:30am

    Lets all go to The Olympics! #olympics #summer #2016

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Former athlete, 13 Jul 2016 @ 11:22am

    FUCK Rio de janero

    I had a good friend who was bludgeoned to death by some asshole with a chunk of concrete while he slept in a new apartment building that he had just purchased and he was so excited about living in Rio.

    Fuck Rio

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2016 @ 12:31pm

    >>All I have to do is say that this is a story that involves >>the Olympics and you probably already know exactly what >>kind of story this is going to be.

    Is it about how the main Olympic Stadiums are dangerously unstable because of the corpses of some of the 4000 dead workers that have been left in the concrete foundations?

    Or about the 3 MASSIVE sewage pipes pumping out 10s of thousands of gallons of untreated sewage right into the lake for the water events? (One athlete whilst practicing complained that as they lifted their oar from the water, a large turd was sitting on it).

    Is it the large number of athletes who've already been mugged at gunpoint and had their Olympic equipment stolen?

    The hotel staff breaking into atheletes quarters and robbing them?

    The many MANY thousands of murdered homeless children of Rio that have just 'disappeared' ?

    Is it the 4 billion dollars of Olympic money that vanished right into the presidents personal accounts?

    Or perhaps it's the Brazilian Cartels sensing a major opportunity to peddle coke at the tourists?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 13 Jul 2016 @ 6:54pm

    “This is about USOC’s intellectual property, ownership of the terms Rio, Road To Rio, the rings—all of the branding they use,” Bergesen said by phone.

    So does this mean they'll soon be going after Rovio for Angry Bird Rio I & II?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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