By some turn of events that I have not yet fully grasped (the events are still turning pretty quickly), I have become increasingly acquainted with the high octane culture of independent knitting and the community’s struggles with various issues of intellectual property right. I blame my daughter.
In weeks past, the knitosphere and affiliated entrepreneurs like Kate Davies have challenged – to varying degrees of success – the shady practices of several big-name, infringement-happy department stores in the United Kingdom (cough—DebenhamsClairesM&S—cough). What’s more, this community has done so with a startling intensity.
The latest object of their internet ire is a figure known in its own right for its aggressive pursuit of intellectual property protection: the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). I’m only half-kidding when I say that the legislation protecting the Olympics is so broad in wording and harsh in application that I’m not entirely sure that I won’t get sued myself just for using the word “Olympics.” But don’t worry about me, I think I know a decent lawyer.
So what happened?
Well, this article explains it better than I can. Essentially, the social knitting network Ravelry planned to host its very own Olympic-style knit-a-thon during the two-week games, which it billed as the third installment of the Ravelympics.
At which point the legal hammer came down. It turns out that just using the “-lympic” suffix is, for better or worse, something of an intellectual property wrong (forgive me).
The issue would have peacefully ended at that had not the USOC’s cease-and-desist letter included this gem:
“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 . . . It is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.”
While it’s all well and good to protect one’s trademark – though we could probably have a lively debate about whether just a fragment of a word should be protected – this is clearly a low blow aimed at an organization that was going to donate half of the event’s proceeds to the Special Olympics. Compounding the issue is just how fiercely protective a hive of offended knitters can become.
So the backlash on the USOC’s online social media outlets has been severe. Most severe. As in, of sufficient severity to elicit not one but two earnest apologies from USOC. They’re still pressing the infringement alarm but at least a bit more politely now.
As for how all this relates to my business law and estate planning practice, you will have to wait for another post. I can only spend so many minutes on the soap box at once now that the Olympics are on . . . damn, please don’t sue me, USOC.
Until next time, good luck and good hunting.
If you’re wondering how your estate plan relates to all this, check out the conclusion of “Why You Should Consider Intellectual Property Rights in Your Estate Planning.”
If you want to talk about intellectual property rights, estate planning, or hear me rail about the absurdity of trademarking a suffix, you can find out how to reach us at our website: TheFisherLawOffice.com. You can also reach us at Facebook.com/FisherLawOffice, on Twitter @thefisherlawoffice, or at LinkedIn.com/in/FisherLawOffice. If you have questions about kittens, knitting, or feminism, you can consult the experts at the Arts and Cats Movement or needled.