2 Million Knitters with Pointy Sticks are Angry at the US Olympic Committee

The US Olympic Committee just sent a cease and desist letter to Ravelry.com for a member-created activity held every two years called Ravelympics. Namely, they declared that the usage of Ravelympic was an infringement on that name, and furthermore, that the activities we hold, such as knitting “afghans,” actually “denigrate” the nature of the Olympic events and are disrespectful to the athletes. Yes, because clearly an activity created to show our love and support for an international series of sports games is infringing upon the USOC’s ability to make money, right? What is most despicable about their bullying actions is that they are calling out groups of crafters who are doing something in their honor – some of these knitters and crocheters are actually working to make the athletes specially handknit items!

Currently the US Olympic Committee’s Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels are feeling the heat as  knitters and nonknitters alike have spoken out to announce their boycott of the US Olympic Committee and sponsors.  They are hoping to make #ravelympics a trend word on Twitter and get the word out that crapping on happy knitters creates an angry army of pointy sticks. Tell you friends, tell your fans, and shame the USOC for its disrespectful letter.

Here is the letter below, reposted in its entirety for those not on Ravelry. Want to read it on Ravelry and participate in the heated discussion going on? Click here.

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, Congress granted the USOC the exclusive right to use and control the commercial use of the word OLYMPIC 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, Ravelry.com’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.

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.

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 Ravelry.com’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.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/olympics-rings-af…\

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/vancouver-2010-ol…

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/2010-olympics-inu…

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/olympic-swimmer-d…

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/2008-olympic-ring…

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/olympic-rings-nec…

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/bode-miller-hat-2…

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/usa-olympic-hat

http://www.ravelry.com/projects/belgianwaffleknit/usa-oly…

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

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50 thoughts on “2 Million Knitters with Pointy Sticks are Angry at the US Olympic Committee

  1. Pingback: How many Olympic athletes have you insulted?

      1. RJ

        So now the restaurant’s name is Lympic, removing only one letter, and that’s good enough for the USOC? Then they should never have had a problem with ‘Ravelympics’ in the first place. What the H E double hockeysticks.

  2. Kimberly Tidwell Storey

    that is a bunch of bullcrap man. I’m Sugarmomma on Rav. and our group does nothing but help others!

    Should have known someone would come around and try to ruin it all!

    PS, and the athletes aren’t the only ones that have tried their whole lives to accomplish something! I know it’s taken me some time to do what I do & I’m still not a professional knitter.

    Reply
  3. Spiderlady

    Let’s change everything to “Generic” there rich people problems solved! Get a life, I could care less! What if all of the Ravelry members didn’t watch the “Olympics”? I actually do my knitting during those times….I guess next it’s the Tour de Fleece, opps!

    Reply
  4. Pingback: The Professor's Notes » Blog Archive » @USOC Makes Olympic Sized Mistake

  5. deltasierra47

    Hm. I live on the Olympic Peninsula in WA State, home of the Olympic Mountains. I graduated from Olympic High School. There are a large number of businesses with the word “Olympic” in their titles. How is it THEY’RE not getting cease and desist letters? Sounds like someone was feeling petty, and is maybe angling for a lawsuit. How are the Olympics finances these days…?

    This is just completely moronic.

    Reply
    1. qwertygirl

      I’m here in WA state with you! Apparently we’re going to have to change the name of our state capital, too. Can’t have anyone infringing on the USOC.

      Reply
    2. Janette

      Could it be that the state of Washington should be filing a cease and stop it letter to the Olympic committee since I believe the city and the mountains were here first…..hmmmmmmmmm inquiring minds would like to know…..

      Reply
  6. dorkaleena

    The USOC has crossed the line from “protecting their brand” to harming it with this ridiculous letter. Not only is it making a mountain out of a molehill, but it was unprofessional and insulting.

    Reply
    1. Janette

      I agree with you…and since the women buy the majority of the staples that this country produces…you should not want to make them angry with such nonsense…..

      Reply
  7. bnanative

    What a shame that they had to go and puff up their chests and alienate so many artisans. I bet a LOT of the people they’ve insulted and belittled have more experience with their art than the average age of the athletes.

    Reply
    1. LadyDanio Post author

      Oh, it is hugely alienating! I think it’s ridiculous as well, but if they have the legal right they certainly could have said it in a nicer way!

      Reply
  8. Pingback: The USOC proves once again how dickish they are | ***Dave Does the Blog

  9. Patricia Needels

    BOYCOTT THE OLYMPICS, NEXT YOU WONT BE ABLE TO USE THE WORDS …SUMMER …GAMES THE PEOPELE NEED TO GET A LIFE.

    Reply
  10. Donna

    Tell Ravelry to hire the lawyers from Olympic(R) paints. Not only are Olympic(R) Paints trademark-registered to use the word “Olympic” – but they have the torch in their logo, and they have the olympic.com domain name. And regarding the US Olympic trademark in the first place – that’s ridiculous, I can’t believe they even got that registered considering the first Olympic games were in Greece back in ~500BC and the actual rings were designed in 1912. Trademark is great when it protects businesses who invested a lot of money $$$ building up their special brand. However the US Olympic Committee did NOTHING to build up the “Olympic” brand – centuries of athletes did it for them. It really should be in the “public domain” by now and free to use by anyone. Although if anybody should own the Olympic brand, it should be Greece. Might help them get out of debt.

    Reply
    1. mwalker85

      My thoughts exactly!! How can a several thousand year old GREEK athletic competition be trademarked by the United States or any country for that matter? It annoys me to no end that this can happen. I feel like I’m going all Disney Pocahontas on this topic by saying they think they own whatever they have even a small part in but it’s really true in this situation! How can someone own the Olympics or even try and sue people who positively use their symbol?! Bah…

      Reply
  11. recreationsproject

    I can (kind of) understand that they want to protect the brand because other sponsors are paying to use the term and raising funds for the US Olympic Team. However, I think they could have communicated that politely and requested an adjustment to the name “Ravelympics”. The “denigrating” portion of the letter was rude, unnecessary, and ill-advised.

    Reply
    1. Kuz

      How have they failed to notice that the whole idea is to knit, while WATCHING THE WHOLE DARN OLYMPICS. How many people exactly do they think watch the whole olympics? This event is designed specifically to celebrate the olympics. And they find it insulting. Unbelievable.

      And protecting the brand? Please. Knitting during the olympics cannot hurt the brand. That doesn’t even make sense. Are they afraid of Ravelry competing with Officially Licenses Olympic Handknit Socks or something???

      Reply
  12. Pingback: Flaming Baguettes and Woolly Thinking | Edinburgh Eye

  13. TontonMacoute

    Change the name to “Ravelimpyx ©.” Make no reference to “the games.” Merely parallel the days of the events. That’s of course if no one has copyrighted the names of the days of the week yet.

    Reply
  14. Pingback: Seriously US Olympic Committee! Are you really serious???? « Peacefully Knitting

  15. Jayel

    Alert Chris Gregoire, Governor of Washington State in …gasp!…Olympia. They will probably go gunning for the Olympic Peninsula next!

    Reply
  16. Jayel

    Check your dictionaries! Olympic is an adjective, as in “making an Olympic effort.” Are we all going to get a cease & desist order for our free speech?

    Reply
  17. Lisa Rodgers

    this is what happens when you put too many over educated people in one room with paper to burn and a computer . Ravelry is an awesome group full of talented people who wanted to support the USA team . Instead of being given the applause they deserve for even caring about such overhyped media driven sports they’re to use their own word ” denigrated” and put down as though the contribution being made by these talented crafters isn’t ” as important” as their puffed up sense of self . In honor of these people I suggest the Ravelry group rename their games the Ravelrylimpdix and lets create items to ‘honor’ those people who have far more time on their hands than they can constructively use . Maybe if they knitted/crocheted they could find more useful things for their hands to do than type such letters and not have such a blown up imagionary sense of importance attached to themselves .

    Reply
    1. Phae8

      Speaking as an “over-educated” person, I would estimate that over-education is the LEAST of their problems. The bigger and more annoying issue seems to be an over-bearing (and misplaced) sense of entitlement coupled with a misguided sense of “social responsibility” but only to their athletes who bring them money through sponsorship, and not to the rest of society. I also cannot ignore the obvious egotistical tone, I’m not convinced that they don’t just have an over-eager lawyer.

      Reply
  18. Fuck USOC

    ladies (and gentlemen) stand up to the cowardly acts of the USOC and show them that you are better then a bunch of gay losers who spent their life doing nothing for the world except sports. you are better then all of them combined.

    Reply
    1. supercarrot

      hey now. i’m sure there are plenty of gay knitters who you just offended with that statement.
      also, “happy losers” doesn’t make much sense as an insult.

      Reply
  19. miscelaineous46

    There was a mom & pop diner in Ithaca NY for many years called The Olympia. It was located near the courthouse and banks, and everybody from janitors and legal secretaries to judges and bank presidents ate there at one time or another, and most of us on a regular basis. We shared breakfast and lunch and sometimes supper, and laughed and cried and shared life together. We met folks we might never have met in the course of our workday, and were on a first name basis.

    The Olympia is gone now. Mom and Pop died, urban renewal moved in, and there is a big chain hotel on that block now, with a Starbucks and a breakfast cafe. Nobody knows your name.

    Reply
  20. Pingback: Bad Form, USOC! | Lucymade

  21. Susan

    I will spend my time knitting during the ‘games …that honor the athletes’ and will watch alternate programming, but will never again support any sponsor. I will save my $$ to buy more yarn ! !

    Reply
  22. Pingback: After Knitters Get In A Twist, USOC Apologizes For ‘Cease And Desist’ Letter » » Controversial ShitControversial Shit

  23. saffronrose

    TontonMacoute hopes that the (names of the) days have not yet been copyrighted, as do I. I hear tell at one point there was a firm thinking about copyrighting “1″ and “0″.

    Heaven forfend the Scots ever get involved in a copyright suit against a Big Name firm that claims rights to persecute people, organizations, and businesses that might be seen to use “their” property, pre-dated or not. They won (but there were two of them).

    Let me introduce that legal concept “grandfather clause”. When was the Act of Congress giving the USOC (or even the UK version, via Parliament, if such was given) this perogative? If the usage by a person, organization, or business, predates that, then USOC should be out of luck, as with Clan Donald’s clan site vs McDonalds Corp.

    I’m not sure whether the USOC came down on the “Special Olympics”, but the gay community was out of luck (quelle surprise). I think they’re “allowed” to use the term “Gay Games”.

    Reply
  24. Pingback: Don’t Upset the USOC « The Nail Color Files

  25. Pingback: - Maglia-Uncinetto.it

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