Intellectual Property, Sports, Trademarks

No One Messes with the U.S. Olympic Committee, Not Even Naïve Internet Knitting Enthusiasts

It is not necessarily uncommon for special interest groups of all stripes to invent their own “Olympics.” The Hipster Olympics went viral a few years ago, during my undergraduate years a sorority hosted the Mud Olympics (that was always fun to watch), etc. etc.

But beware, the U.S. Olympic Committee does not take kindly to those who allegedly usurp their trademark. Last year, we wrote about the Redneck Olympics getting shut down by the committee, and this week the organization is at it again, bringing the hammer torch down on an unofficial knitting “olympics.” Oh the humanity!

We mentioned the news earlier this week in Morning Docket, but the tips have continued flowing in, and we figured the story is worth a full post. Gawker gives us the skinny:

If you mess with the Olympics trademark, a cloud of legal hurt will descend on you faster than Tyson Gay in the Men’s 100 meters. Case in point: The U.S. Olympic Committee has sent a cease and desist letter to a knitting-based social network for hosting a knitting “olympics.” Now, knitters are in revolt.

2012 was to be the third year that the knitting social network Ravelry — yes, this exists and is surprisingly popular — hosted a “Ravelympics,” a knitting competition for users that includes events like an “afghan marathon,” and “scarf hockey.” Knitters were supposed to compete in their events while watching the actual Games on TV.

But that was before the U.S. Olympics Committee got wind of it and sent Ravelry a cease & desist, for making a mockery of the Games with their needlework.

And the Olympic committee didn’t just send any cease-and-desist order; they shot an arrow into the soft, fuzzy heart of the time-honored tradition of knitting. Gawker reprints sections of the letter sent from the USOC’s general counsel:

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 at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them.

[…]

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.

Take that, knitters! You think you’re so superior, sitting at home in your rocking chair, drinking tea, making cozy sweaters for your relatives, and having a generally pleasant, old-timey time. Well, that’s not what the Olympics are about! Who do you think you are???? You’re making a mockery of the world’s greatest athletes, international competition — everything the Olympics stands for, and all the solemn tradition that goes along with it, like this year’s venerable mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville (sarcasm timeout for a second: if you haven’t seen what the mascots look like, click the link. Those things are f***king bizarre).

In any case, sorry knitters, I feel your pain, and I know it doesn’t seem fair. But if you want to play with the torch, you are going to get burned.

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

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