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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Filed Under: kate grace, olympics, rio, rio olympics, trademark, usoc
Companies: oiselle, us olympic committee, usoc


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  1. 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.

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