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IOC Claims Olympian Lindsey Vonn's Name As Intellectual Property 399

gehrehmee writes "As usual, the International Olympic Committee is coming down on hard on people mentioning things related to the Olympics without permission. This time it's UVEX sporting supplies, which sponsors Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn. Without explaination, their front page was today updated to include a tongue-in-cheek poem about UVEX's interaction with the IOC. Can the IOC really claim an Olypmian's name as their own intellectual property?"
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IOC Claims Olympian Lindsey Vonn's Name As Intellectual Property

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  • Probably not. (Score:3, Informative)

    by jra ( 5600 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @07:15PM (#31192748)

    But there is right-of-publicity, and commercial use has different rules than editorial use; Olympians -- excuse me: "atheletes who compete in the biannual international sporting events held around the world -- may sign an agreement that restricts them from allowing companies to use their names commercially without their own agreement with the IOC.

  • by ub3r n3u7r4l1st ( 1388939 ) * on Thursday February 18, 2010 @07:23PM (#31192874)

    therefore is immune to any lawsuit originated in the U.S.

  • by sys.stdout.write ( 1551563 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @07:26PM (#31192910)
    I would try to refute your claims using quotes from the article, BUT THERE ISN'T ONE
  • by calmofthestorm ( 1344385 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @07:30PM (#31192966)

    >> Claiming a thing is their property does not actually make it their property *unless it's enforced by technical means, thus causing it to fall under the DMCA anti-circumvention clause*
    Fixed that for you.

  • by Matheus ( 586080 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @07:42PM (#31193142) Homepage

    You really must preface that comment with IANAL... as it stands you are quite wrong. This essay describes in hefty detail mostly why []

    Excerpt: "...they can seek relief as a plaintiff, or be named as a defendant in a sovereign nation's court of law..."

  • Re:Probably not. (Score:4, Informative)

    by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @07:51PM (#31193252) Homepage

    Biennial: Every two years
    Biannual: Twice yearly

    Although either word would still be incorrect, since each sporting event is still quadrennial.

  • by Mehall ( 1494975 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @07:53PM (#31193278) Homepage

    /. submitters finally give up the TFA, realising few get as far as the summary, just read the headline.

  • by chill ( 34294 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @08:09PM (#31193426) Journal

    If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.

    There are plenty of cases of organizations and even COUNTRIES being sued in the U.S. civil court system by individual plaintiffs. If the individuals win, the courts will attach any assets that are, or later enter, the U.S. There are even cases where the U.S. courts petition foreign banks to freeze assets held in foreign countries. And yes, sometimes it really works.

  • by optimus2861 ( 760680 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @08:39PM (#31193740)

    VANOC trademarked the line, "With Glowing Hearts", which comes directly out of Canada's national anthem [].

    Today's Olympics are all about whoring themselves out to corporate sponsors, being absolute dicks to anyone who isn't one, and stiffing local taxpayers with the bills for years if not decades on end. If you're the type who worships at the altar of the free market, you've got to admire their ruthlessly perfect exploitation of it.

  • by schon ( 31600 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @08:44PM (#31193800)

    The article that was removed is available here [].

    The mention of Ms. Vonn's name is in the following sentence:

    They just posted a good rundown of the Woman's field [] disguised as story about the rivalry between top skiers (and best friends!) Lindsey Vonn and Maria Reisch.

    That's it. No claim of her endorsing anything, just a summary of an article on another website.

  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @09:01PM (#31193936) Journal
    They can, if they make the olympians sign a contract. For the Beijing Olympics, Britain made their athletes sign a contract promising not to say anything political during the event.

    Funny thing about "inalienable" rights - You can't sign them away.

    For example, you can't sell yourself into slavery. Simple as that, you just can't do it. You can't waive your first amendment rights, either (though your employer has no obligation to keep employing you if they don't like what you have to say).

    Now, whether or not you can sell your name itself... Ask the Artist Formerly Known as Prince about that one. Precedent exist on both sides of that fence, and not many people want to risk going up against something as big as the IOC when they may well lose.

    BTW, IANAL. Just someone who loathes the power (and abuses thereof) of the IOC. They travel the world destroying businesses, lives, and communities, and that without resorting to various seemingly frivolous trademark issues.
  • by cthugha ( 185672 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @09:28PM (#31194176)
    I'll stand as a citation for the GP's statement that "most lawyers' letters are bluffs" where "letters" means initial letters of demand, and yes, IAAL. I'm not aware of whether any relevant data has been collected on the point, but any significant exposure to the practice of law will confirm the truth of the proposition.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 18, 2010 @09:31PM (#31194210)

    Yes olympic athlete + geek is a possible combination...

    I can infact (or at least as far as Australian Olympians are concerned) confirm that you sign MANY papers that sign away the right to your name, image, performance (still dont know how they use that) and other things away to the national olympic body which in turn signs their right to the IOC.
    So they will have jurisdiction via the national olympic committee, and even if the company gives the IOC the bird, they can get back at the company by putting pressure on the athlete.

    Also it is VERY slack on her part. You are given multiple opportunities to inform the relevant bodies about any sponsorship agreements you have (so those guys WONT get hassled). And if she didnt inform them of it, then either she will get into shit (if company gets their lawyers) or the company will.

    If the company is using it without her knowledge, then good on the IOC. Because that means the athlete is being taken advantage of by the company. If the company wants to be associated with the athlete, they should pay!
    Most olympians have to work part time (with large amounts of unpaid holidays), and their sporting pursuit costs them MAJOR money to do. So they NEED every dollar they can get (yes some olympians are cashed up but they are a minority).

  • by TPJ-Basin ( 763596 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:23PM (#31194732) Homepage [] "....Rule 41 in the International Olympic Committee's charter, the so-called "Blackout Rule," which bans competitors, coaches, trainers and officials participating in the Olympics from using their name or image for advertising during the Games. Only those whose sponsors pony up a substantial sum to be an official Olympic sponsor receive an exemption from the IOC's executive board."
  • by e3k7 ( 1742116 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:34PM (#31194854)
    "Skeezy"? Uvex has been making gear for a very, very long time, and a lot of skiers will tell you their first pair of goggles probably came from there. Most of this stuff is not for the sake of looking good, it's made for safety, and they do it well.
  • by wiredlogic ( 135348 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:39PM (#31194888)

    The main source of the problem is that the IOC has gotten special privileges over the use of the name "Olympic" and all variants as well as the interlocked ring motif. In the US this transcends all IP laws by an act of Congress. I'm sure they've accomplished similar things in other countries. Traditional trademark law would have allowed a Greek owned "Olympic Pizza" shop to continue running in Atlanta but it was forced to change its name by the IOC. People with Celtic ring designs have been pressured by the IOC to stop their infringement despite historical precedent that predates the modern Olympics. It should still be fine to say that Vonn won a gold medal in some unspecified international competition. However, as soon as you invoke the magic O-words you pass outside the realm of rationality and into the IOC's autocratic la la land.

  • by Miseph ( 979059 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:55PM (#31195020) Journal

    Point of order: Judges don't declare martial law. Ever. That's something that only a military officer (including the CINC) can do (hence "martial"), so unless the judge also happens to be an acting general, they have no ability or incentive to make that declaration, nor would they have any power to rescind the order.

    The appropriate charge would be capital contempt of court, with expedited sentencing and a fast tracked execution. Firing squad is a little hard to justify in the US, but maybe if the bailiff shouted "he's coming right for us!" before shooting they could get around the details.

  • by pla ( 258480 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:56PM (#31195022) Journal
    Whoa! Citation please!

    Fair enough request. here you go [].

    One quote in particular stands out to me... "Participation in the Olympic Games is voluntary. Thus, nations and individuals who participate in the Olympic Games submit themselves to the rules and regulations established by the IOC, and to subsequent sanctions for violating these rules. The IOC alone cannot compel governmental compliance, however, the Olympic Charter exemplifies current international practice and has the effect of customary international law. Therefore, the authoritative force of the rules and regulations of the Olympic Charter are recognized by state and international law.

    Interestingly, I can't find substantiation of my claim that they have an international trademark by treaty, as with the IRC. So I'll have to take my spankings on that point, though I consider the above somewhat more scary.

    but it really is only theory unless the Supreme Court has tried to overturn part of a treaty, and was denied.

    As I said, IANAL. However, the best I can find on this subject comes from De Geofroy vs Riggs, 1890 [], which says "The treaty power, as expressed in the constitution, is in terms unlimited, except by those restraints which are found in that instrument against the action of the government" - Which I take to mean that unless they blatantly violate the constitution, treaties win.
  • stupid (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 18, 2010 @10:58PM (#31195038)

    Here's a fun one... I work for a web shop, one of our clients is a spa. They have a masseuse on staff who is presently in Vancouver working for Team USA. They indicated as much on their website last week. All they said was "our masseuse, Jane Doe, is in Vancouver working with team USA..."

    Today they get a cease-and-desist phone call from IOC lawyers... WTF?? What's the point? How are they profiting from this kind of stupidity?

  • Can't stand them (Score:3, Informative)

    by kitsunewarlock ( 971818 ) on Thursday February 18, 2010 @11:03PM (#31195086) Journal
    The Olympics killed my favorite card game/RPG franchise (well, its not 100% dead but its MUCH less popular now than it was). Legend of the Five Rings was threatened due to the fact the Olympics apparently own any symbol of "multiple interlocking rings", which they had on the backs of all their cards. As any card player could tell you, forcing all players to play their expensive cards with new backs is a good way to kill your game. Of course their five rings represented the 5 elements of the ancient Japanese world...and the game had absolutely nothing to do with the Olympics or even Greek history...
  • by NormalVisual ( 565491 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:08AM (#31195854)
    And not just sports gear. In the years that I spent working for two different laser companies, all of the goggles we had were made by Uvex. They're a *huge* name in industrial safety eyewear.
  • by gnapster ( 1401889 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @02:25AM (#31196154)
    Oh, they've done that already []. I thought they did it before Google.
  • by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:21AM (#31196400) Journal

    At the entrance, volunteers searched my bag and poured out my bottle of water. This was for the benefit of Coca-Cola Corp.

    While I mostly agree with what you say (speaking from Richmond here), so far as I can tell, the restriction on liquids isn't really for the benefit of Coke, but rather part of the recent security craze. They seem to forbid all sorts of liquids on entrance to any organized large gathering of people, whether or not Coke sells anything there.

    Still, Coke and McDonalds do make me sick in many other ways. During the torch ceremony here in Richmond, over half of the time was wasted on their endorsements (performers dressed in corporate colors wearing logos etc).

    And I can't even "vote with my wallet", because I already did that with respect to those two companies ages ago (for health reasons).

  • then (Score:3, Informative)

    by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:47AM (#31196524) Homepage Journal

    does she, or does she not use their products ?

    isnt this a fact ? it is evident that she uses their products, not because they sponsored her, but their products are good. it is a FACT. you cant copyright facts.

  • by avxo ( 861854 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:53AM (#31196550)
    Unfortunately, they can -- whether it's right or wrong is a whole 'nother story. There are a number of treaties that nations that participate in the Olympics must sign. One of them is the Nairobi Treaty on Protection of the Olympic Symbol [] which basically grants the IOC a sort of super-duper trademark. This is just one of the many relevant treaties related to the Olympics and the "rights" of the IOC! Additionally, athletes who participate in the Olympics also have to sign a rather extensive agreement, which, among other things, prohibit them from making any "side promotion deals" during the run-up to and until the end of the Olympics.

    Again, I'm not suggesting that this is right -- or even sane. But, the way that things are, it seems that the IOC is within its specially crafted legal rights to ask UVEX to not refer to the Athlete formerly known as Lindsay Kildow.

  • by WebCowboy ( 196209 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:12AM (#31196606)

    ...and as such "they win" in terms of precedence regarding trademark (note that this is probably NOT a copytight case--it is strictly TRADEMARK I'm talking about and there are significant legal differences between those forms of IP).

    In Canadian legal parlance a "public authority" is a body with some official governing status. This includes governments ranging from local to national and international bodies like the UN.

    As such, the use of Olympic marks is given the same protection afforded to such marks as Royal Warrants, names and logos of government departments, logos depicting police badges and so on. The rights of public authorities supercede ALL OTHER RIGHTS and do so retroactively, rendering any trademark rights afforded by sponsorship agreements with third parties void. They can assert their rights over the use of Olympic-affiliated emblems, words, names and phrases in Canada the same way the RCMP can exercise its authority over the use of the iconic red serge uniform and the Queen can allow the use of the phrase "By appointment to the Queen..." phrase on a bottle of HP.

    The IOC, COA and/or VANOC, as public authorities, may not even have to make any public assertion regarding an athletes' name as a trademark, nor would they have to establish an agreement regarding the use of an athlete's name. A case could be made (unreasonable or not) for "ambush marketing" where a registered trademark isn't explicitly used but a name, word, phrase or symbol that could even be INFERRED to be associated with the games IS used to imply some official connection. This is what UVEX was accused of--they did not commit any money, time or other resources to the olympic games themselves--they are strictly sponsors of Ms. Vonn. Yes, it does look to be an unreasonable case as most intelligent people wouldn't make the logical leap that they were "THE official supplier of product x" based on their simple announcement, but litigation isn't about being reasonable.

    Incidentally this isn't a politically partisan issue and isn't associated with Canada or these games in particular. This is strictly the path taken by the IOC in actions taken in the lead-up to the 1984 summer games in LA. Starting in that year, the IOC mandated as a requirement that host nations and local governments give olympic organisers just the kind of status equivalent to that bestowed upon "public authorities" in Canada. Prior to 1984 the Olympics actively distanced itself from corporate affiliation, but starting in the '70s the games started growing in scale and opulence to a point that governmental and other non-corporate sponsorship could not sustain them. By 1976 the situation became intolerable--the Montreal games were plagued with corruption, poorly constructed facilities that were still under construction right through the actual games themselves and massive budget overruns and debts (the 1976 olympics finally reached break-even status in 2006, and the roof of the stadium was never completed as designed!). On top of that, private businesses were using the work Olympic and affiliated marks rampantly to profit from those games while offical organisers swam in red ink.

    In 1980 the free world boycotted the '80 summer games, and the winter games were still small enough to lack profile, but in 1984 the IOC was determined to make the games financially viable and asserted serious control over its brand for the first time--selling the rights to to be official sponsors to bidders for massive amounts of money to meet their goal. In order to make official sponsorship worth such a high value required very draconian enforcement of its rights to prevent free, unofficial use from devaluing the brand. As such, so long as any olympics remains a massive, spectacular hype machine that saturates the world's media you are going to have this sort of activity. It closely parallels the way media cartels and closed software companies build or maintain illegitimate or obsolete business models atop flawed IP law.

  • by mcvos ( 645701 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @07:23AM (#31197610)

    At the entrance, volunteers searched my bag and poured out my bottle of water. This was for the benefit of Coca-Cola Corp.

    While I mostly agree with what you say (speaking from Richmond here), so far as I can tell, the restriction on liquids isn't really for the benefit of Coke, but rather part of the recent security craze. They seem to forbid all sorts of liquids on entrance to any organized large gathering of people, whether or not Coke sells anything there.

    Plenty of events banned bringing your own bottles long before 9/11. Back then the reason was that people might throw empty bottles around and that would be dangerous. But always at those events there's somebody selling drinks at highly inflated prices.

  • Re:False (Score:3, Informative)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara@hudson.barbara-hudson@com> on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:03PM (#31200910) Journal

    NOONE can take that risk.

    I've taken it in the past, and will continue to do so, when I am in the right.

    The last time I decided to use a lawyer "for the convenience", I ended up having to fire him, then I drafted my own motions, served them on the government and the other parties involved, argued them, won, the government lawyers realized that the government had acted illegally and backed out, filed more motions against the other parties that were left, argued THEM, opposed all their motions and claims, and again won. The amount at stake wasn't trivial - it would have been in the 6 figures. They not only lost, but it turns out that, once the judge did the accounting, it was as I had claimed, and to add insult to injury they had to pay me for the government's errors, without recourse against the government. Plus they were stuck with a 5-figure lawyers bill.

    I actually turned a small profit after all my costs. They, on the other hand, left the courtroom swearing so loud ... if the judge hadn't already left, they would have been called to the bench for another good spanking.

    Most people can argue their own cases, provided they learn the basics. How to object to evidence (lack of foundation, here-say, irrelevance - learn those and you've got most of it covered). How to lay a foundation for any evidence you want to introduce. How to question your witnesses. How to force witnesses for the other side to start screaming at the judge (done that one a few times - always devastating to the other sides' case). How to sneak here-say in through the back door when nobody's looking (been there, done that, just have to beat up on the other side for a few hours non-stop and they won't object to anything for fear of yet another smack-down from someone they thought would be an "amateur" :-).

    You have the Internet. Use it. There are plenty of motions out there that you can copy, modify to your own needs, and then serve on the other side (and if the other side is represented by a lawyer, you can serve it on them by fax - just keep the fax transmittal record as proof of service when you file the motion with the court).

    Just yesterday I transcribed the ACLU motion against the Newark police department []. It's a model in terms of how you have to lay out the alleged facts, then the alleged violations (and to remember to include all the alleged facts by reference in each violation), and then the relief sought. You can probably find similar stuff all over the Internet, whether it's for filing a demand to intervene as a 3rd party in a court case (done that, judge agreed, got to cross-examine all parties), a divorce or separation, or modification of a support order, or an injunction enjoining someone to do (or stop doing) something, or anything else you can imagine.

    Whatever your beef, you can find the materials on the net to turn it into nice tasty bar-b-que. Problem is, most people are too timid. "Oh, I need a lawyer to handle that." Most of the time, no you don't. So stop whining - you have the tools to literally take the law into your own hands and argue it in court.

    The best part? Because you are the one arguing your side, you get to personally confront your opponents - and you know better than anyone else what gets their goats, and when they'll try to embellish the facts to the point where they make a provable lie; they, on the other hand, can't attack you directly - all communications have to be through their lawyer.

    Look, give it a try. It's much more fun in person than it sounds.

  • by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <barbara@hudson.barbara-hudson@com> on Friday February 19, 2010 @01:16PM (#31201082) Journal

    Barratry requires a pattern of filing multiple lawsuits with the intent to harrass.

    First, the threats are not barratry, since nothing is filed, so they can make threats until the sky turns green. Save them up for your day in court - the more ridiculous ones (and if they're "that type", there will be some pretty ridiculous claims) will be useful.

    Second, multiple lawsuits in and of themselves are not barratry. You have to show the intent behind them - and they can argue that they were pursuing what they perceived as legit claims. Now, once you get them smacked down in court, if they continue ... that's another question.

    Also, many jurisdictions have anti-SLAPP laws. Use the Internet to help take the law into your own hands legally.

I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best. -- Oscar Wilde