Thursday, June 21, 2012

The US Olympic Committee Steps In It

A post in which I am about to express my supreme disappointment with the US Olympic Committee.

Be prepared. I have been wordy. I couldn’t help myself.

If knitting and/or the Olympics are not your thing feel free to leave and come back another day.

First a bit of back story. I am a member, along with 1,999,999 other fiberists, on the all things fiber site Ravelry. I cannot express how much I love Ravelry and all the people over there. I would not have found my Knit Sibs if it were not for Ravelry. Knitters are an incredibly giving community. We have to be if we are willing to spend A LOT of hours knitting socks or sweaters for someone we love, and sometimes for someone we don’t even know.

Since 2008 many of us have participated in “Ravelympics” which has been our way of supporting the US Olympic teams and also setting large knitting goals for ourselves in the process. Goals that often stretch our knitting abilities and knowledge. We have always felt that it was a fabulous way to enjoy the Olympics with others (the Opening Ceremonies party is scheduled to be held at Chez Knit this year) and to cheer on the athletes that give such a large part of their lives to be the best that they can be.

So imagine the absolute boiling, expanding, seething pot of anger and astonishment that has hit the knitting/crocheting/fiber arts community with the delivery of a Cease and Desist letter from the US Olympic Committee to Ravelry. I have printed the entire letter below. Read it, especially the highlighted portions (my highlights). Then I will tell you what I think…..


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,’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’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.…s-rings-af…\…couver-2010-ol…0-olympics-inu…mpic-swimmer-d…8-olympic-ring…mpic-rings-nec…e-miller-hat-2…leknit/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


I am just going to take a minute here to do some deep and calming breathing.

In, Out, In, Out, In, Out…..

It isn’t helping all that much but I will go on.

By and large the discussion over on Ravelry (and the knitting community in general) seems to be that it isn’t all that hard to change a name. Casey et al didn’t have to designate our competition as “Ravelympics”. In fact there is a lively discussion going on to come up with some alternative names. I cannot reprint some of them because this is, after all, a family friendly blog. Just know that knitters are a VERY creative bunch whether with fiber or with words.

What all of us across the Knitterverse are boiling mad about is the implication that we have in some way denigrated and disrespected the athletes participating in the Olympics.


Sorry, my frustration with the idiocy of the USOC got the better of me. And I have to assume that no one who is in charge over at that “august” group has ever taught themselves to knit a sock, or a sweater, or a Estonian lace shawl of epic proportions with NUPPS AND BEADING (that was for you Larissa). Most of us here in the Knitterverse will never be a Barbara Walker or Elizabeth Zimmerman or Stephanie Pearl-MacPhee but we put great time and effort into all that we do. We work hard on our fiber. We frog back and try again when we have made a mistake. We study our mistakes to learn what NOT to do and learn what to do better. We search the internet to learn a technique that we do not know and we ask our Knit Sibs to help us hone our skills. We stay up late at night to finish projects for ourselves and others. We take classes to learn a new skill or sharpen an old one. We knit for others. Oh do we knit for others.

I wonder how many moms (and dads too) have brought their knitting along as they waited for their child to finish practice. Hmmmmmmmm.

The US Olympic Committee has stepped in it. We in the Knitterverse play with sharp and pointy sticks and hooks. We take our fiber arts seriously. To say that we have disrespected the US athletes is just down right insulting. If they had nicely asked that Casey et al over at Ravelry change the Ravelympics name there wouldn’t have been any uproar. We would have understood the possible copyright infringement issue. But that wasn’t what they did. They came in with their lawerly canon and fired away.

If you are a knitter and you feel even mildly upset, let the US Olympic Committee know how you feel.

US Olympics facebook page
US Olympics Twitter feed

In prodding the innocent pile of fiber the US Olympic Committee has unleashed the Knitting Kraken!

1 comment:

  1. with all the things there are in the world to get upset about--Olympic-related and not-- this is what they're choosing to spend time on? what idiots. totally on your side.


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